Letter: Credits school system for ‘blackface’ photo response

To the Editor:

Today, Sept. 22, is the 157-year anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary unveiling of his Emancipation Proclamation to free all slaves living in rebel states by Jan. 1, 1853. The ensuing grueling Civil War took the lives of hundreds of thousands from every state, including that of President Lincoln and almost destroyed this free country we proudly call the home of the brave. Free because many in our military have fought and died or been wounded to preserve the freedoms adopted by our forefathers that many in our younger generations take for granted.

Over the last two weeks, we may have heard about a blackface incident in Shelton. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Clouet, very deftly covered it in his “school opening” video. His remarks were short and to the point. The incident happened at a private home during what appears to be a teen sleepover when young teens were using a dark facial skin peel product and it was not in anyway tied to any programs or activity at any Shelton school.

And although all these aspects of the incident are true and not refuted by anyone, the local Chapter of the NAACP from Ansonia has decided or been prompted to stage a protest at the BOE central office at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25, before its regularly scheduled meeting. Dr. Clouet, who is acquainted with the NAACP leadership and other organizations, to his good, took it upon himself and inquired about the planned protest. He was told that the organization has to protect its constituents.

Dr. Clouet and the SIS staff had already quickly addressed the issue quite thoroughly by using the incident to prepare and go forward with a teaching program at the SIS last week. Without delay they did not hide, shrink or try to brush the incident under the rug. In fact I am told more educational programs are being prepared and evaluated in this regard as I pen this editorial.

There is no doubt that an incident occurred. We do not know whether those involved even knew what they were doing was absolutely unacceptable. They could have been completely clueless of the hurt they may be causing others or if they were trying to intimidate someone. That is a matter for the police to sort out. Social media hyped it and has without question created more victims. Once again social media can neither offer a solution nor a thought on how to solve a problem but only know how to inflame the fires and make things worse.

Those planning on coming to the BOE meeting from the NAACP would, I hope, make an effort to discuss the incident and evaluate the steps Shelton has taken to address the incident. Remember, the Shelton school system immediately, without any outside influence or being forced into doing so took appropriate action. The Shelton school administrators and teachers stepped up to the plate, and in my opinion, hit it out of the park on the first pitch and should be applauded for their swift and positive reaction.

I hope the NAACP and anyone who was offended saw the true sincerity in their actions to “get it right at the end of the day” and they will rethink the reason they are meeting at the Shelton Board of Education on Wednesday evening. Remember the passages in the Bible just before a public stoning. The crowd was not asked to forgo their mission of stoning/punishing an alleged perpetrator but to allow the one person in the group without sin to throw the first stone. I would think everyone knows the outcome of that learning moment.

Shelton is comprised of some of the most respectable, decent, honest and caring persons who support many charities and forums to promote social justice and more importantly enlighten the youth of our community in many so ways. This incident should be investigated, but it should not reflect badly on our school system or our town and its 40,000 other citizens of all ages.

Anthony Simonetti