Racial controversy surrounds high school play - WBNG.com: Binghamton-area News, Weather, Sports

Racial controversy surrounds high school play

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ITHACA, N.Y. (WBNG) -- Ithaca High School's casting for a school play has sparked protests among students and national threats. 

When a white student was cast the role of Esmeralda in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, who is a woman of color in the Disney film, students disagreed.

Some IHS students said they thought the school's performing arts program should have cast a female student of color. 

"Diversity really shows representation of the beautiful and vast culture of America," said Ithaca High School senior, Annabella Mead-VanCort. "I think the arts is a perfect way to show that beauty."

In response students started a group called Students United Ithaca, and sent a petition around the school in which they received 26 signatures. The students proceeded to protest by attending Board of Education meetings and spoke about the matter with the faculty.

In response, Ithaca High School's Board of Education sent 12 News a statement, saying:

"We support our students and their right to protest. We may not always agree, but we greatly appreciate the important and complex conversation our students have started regarding issues of identity and inclusion in the arts."

Recently, Students United Ithaca, received violent threats and messages online, calling them racists and said they are causing problems. Another student in the group, Eamon Nunn-Makepeace said he received a direct threat. 

Thousands of other comments flooded the group's Facebook page with support . The students said it immediately outweighed the hate.

"We can speak up about these issues," said Mead-VanCort. "We don't have to just let things we don't think are right just keep happening."

The students said on Monday they were speaking with the school. They said they hope school officials will work with them on creating a more diverse atmosphere for the district. 

The full statement by the Ithaca High School Board of Education can be found below.

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