A high school student in Orange County, New York who was the target of a racial slur on social media is speaking out. Her family says the Minisink Valley Central School District should have done more in response and is considering legal action.
Minisink Valley High School sophomore N'Senga Kinzonzi says a photo taken without her permission and captioned with the “n” word saying she should be lynched left her in shock.
“And I, it saddened me that that’s what people thought when they see me,” Kinzonzi says. “So I decided to take an educational approach and give the boy a background on the “n” word and the word lynching.”
The honor student, choking back tears as she described the incident Thursday, says the Snapchat post appeared in October. She was reaching for her book, “A Raisin in the Sun,” in her English class when a classmate took her picture without her knowing and tacked on the caption. A variety of emotions ensued.
“Shocked, disappointed, saddened, scared, then angry,” says Kinzoni.
She and her family say the student was suspended for 60 days and the matter is in family court. A request for comment from Superintendent Brian Monahan was directed to his December 21 post on the school district web site, which says, in part, that the district has no tolerance for hateful language or any type of conduct that endangers the physical or emotional sense of safety and security of students and staff. The post also says that the incident was immediately reported to law enforcement agencies and, after investigations, and collaboration between the district and law enforcement, the offending student faced disciplinary action. The statement says the district legally cannot discuss any resulting student disciplinary actions, including this one, for any reason. Kinzonzi anticipates the student’s return.
“Apparently, the school is planning on changing his schedule, but that won’t prevent me from seeing him in the hallway,” Kinzonzi says. “And, when he does return, I know that the topic will be the new buzzing gossip in the school, and I’m going to have to go through that all over again.”
Her mother, Nicole Kinzonzi, describes what she views as an appropriate resolution to the matter.
“I want people removed from positions because that would send a message that it ends now, so, and people who are in positions that felt it was ok to ignore and ignore what they saw and listen to their friends or thought about their friends instead of the more global community,” Nicole Kinzonzi says. “I want them removed. They’re not good leaders, at all.”
She says the family has a meeting with school district officials January 7, and would have to hear the following to prevent legal action.
“The superintendent has to say, I’m hiring new administration, I’m hiring these new teachers,” says Nicole Kinzonzi. “If he doesn’t do that, then we know he’s not sincere,”
“And here comes legal action,” Dunne says.
“Here it comes,” Nicole Kinzonzi affirms.
“Against the school district,” asks Dunne.
“Yes, because the school district, the school community, it sets the tone,” Nicole Kinzonzi says. “They’re inculcating children, they’re inculcating the future thinkers, the future employees, employers, or whatever, so definitely. It has to stop.”
A spokeswoman for the school district says officials there look forward to the January 7 meeting with the family. Democratic Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, whose 18th District includes Orange County, in a tweet Friday, said, “saying you want to lynch someone isn't funny. Ever. Ever ever. We're not going to tolerate racism like this in the Hudson Valley. I stand with N’Senga and her family.”
The Kinzonzi family spoke at civil rights attorney Michael Sussman’s office in Goshen. Sussman says he first learned about the post late last week, and the family approached him soon after.
“I’m mostly concerned right now about the public in this county coming to understand that we have some very serious ongoing persistent issues that continue to arise, many of them amongst our young and the attitudes they’re displaying, not only,” Sussman says. “We have a tremendous amount of prejudice on many levels, and we have to start dealing with it.”
Again, N’Senga Kinzonzi.
“And I want me to be the last person in Minisink, in Orange County, in New York, to ever have to, ever have to go through this.”
N’Senga’s oldest brother, Caleb, now in college, says he took to social media to raise awareness, and has received responses from as far away as Italy.
“And you know what, I’m not a civil rights activist,” Caleb Kinzonzi says. “I’m just a concerned older brother.”
He says he was the target of racism while in the school district himself. Apart from N’Senga, the parents say their two other children, a son who is a high school senior and a younger daughter, have all faced different degrees of bullying or racism in the school district.