Columbia Prep

Historic NYC School Vows to Address Systemic Racism After Insta Page Highlights Problems

Social media accounts that bring attention to racism have been on the rise along with the protests calling an end to police brutality and racial injustice

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A historic private high school in New York City has hired a diversity consultant and vowed to make changes in order to dismantle the institution's systemic racism after an Instagram account revealed students' experiences with racism at the school.

Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School Head, Dr. William M. Donohue, said Wednesday that the accounts of racism on @truecolorsofcolumbia, students being called a racial slur by other students to being racially profiled by members of the staff, are "sobering and shocking" but the school is listening.

"Systemic racism exists at CGPS, and we apologize that we did not provide an inclusive and equitable environment for our BIPOC students and alumni. It is unacceptable," Donohue said in a statement as he announced the hiring of Martha Haakmat, a veteran educator and equity and inclusion consultant.

The account @truecolorsofcolumbia made its first post on June 12. In each post, a blue and white photo told the stories of Black, Indigenous and people of color at Columbia Prep. The oldest account is from a Class of '95 alumni who wrote, "We were stopped on a daily basis asking that we show ID because the two white women at the front desk refused to believe that a group of Black students attended the school."

Another post by an anonymous submitter said a teacher didn't believe that a student, who identified as a person of color, was not on financial aid. "She asked if I was invited to the ACT/SAT program that is offered to students on financial aid. When I said no, she kept asking the same question in a different way," the post read.

Located in the Upper West Side, Columbia Prep is the oldest nonsectarian private school in the country. The school said in addition to hiring a consultant, it has reached out to the community to draw attention to the Instagram account. Donohue said the school will also creating a Board of Trustees Committee for diversity and inclusion, expand recruitment practices and increase BIPOC faculty.

The @truecolorsofcolumbia account says the Instagram page is not meant to "expose" people and the school, but it is meant to create conversations and amplify the voices of the unheard.

Social media accounts that bring attention to racism have been on the rise along with the protests calling an end to police brutality and racial injustice.

Truecolorsofcolumbia said they were inspired by another Instagram account @blackatbrearly, which details Black students' experiences at The Brearley, an all-girls private school in the Upper East Side. That account made its first post on June 7.

On June 15, the school said it would "actively shape an anti-racist community" at the school and vowed similar systemic changes in diversity, equity and inclusion.

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