A group of concerned African American pastors, community organizers and other leaders is calling on Fresno Unified leaders to make clear that Fresno’s African American community and its children won’t be targeted with hateful comments at the city’s schools.
Joe Toney, coordinator for the recently formed Concerned Parents for Quality Education, urged school trustees at their Wednesday meeting to assure the public that African American children are safe and respected by those who teach or oversee them at school each day.
Toney pointed to a recent controversy at Scandinavian Middle, when Vice Principal Joe DiFilippo was videotaped on a student’s cell phone allegedly saying “I just don’t like the black kids” while he stood outside the central Fresno school’s cafeteria.
DiFilippo is currently on paid leave as the district waits for more information being collected by an outside investigator, spokesman Jed Chernabaeff said Wednesday.
But Toney said the video, and a recent showing at a board meeting by several Scandinavian teachers who support DiFilippo, continues to cast a shadow on students.
“Those who spoke glowingly on behalf of the alleged maker of the comments suggested that the students were villains rather than the victims,” he said, referencing a comment by a teacher who alleged students can look online to find ways to bait their teachers. “For nearly 30 days the students at Scandinavian have had to linger under this cloud while an investigation is being conducted.”
Toney hand-delivered his memo to the board and alerted the members that he’s already called on Superintendent Michael Hanson to take action. A letter signed by Toney and nine of the group’s other members such as retired police officer Robert Mitchell and west Fresno leader Mary Curry was sent to Hanson on March 27.