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Collingswood High students walk out for a second day of protest over allegations of racism

The students held "Black Lives Matter" signs at the rally held in Knight Park across from the public school.

Alexis Wallace, age 16, raises her fist along other students during a Black Lives Matter protest outside Collingswood High School in Collingswood, N.J. Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023.
Alexis Wallace, age 16, raises her fist along other students during a Black Lives Matter protest outside Collingswood High School in Collingswood, N.J. Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023.Read moreJose F. Moreno / Staff Photographer

Some 100 Collingswood High School students walked out of class for a second day of protests Wednesday over allegations of racism at the South Jersey school.

Students left the building shortly before noon and gathered in Knight Park across the street. They waited patiently for the arrival of Gary Frazier, a Camden activist who organized the Black Lives Matter demonstration in response to several recent incidents at the school that students believe had racial overtones.

“Black people should not have to experience this,” sophomore Kamiyah Jenkins,15 , said. “It’s 2023. We should be over this.”

The crowd greeted Frazier, 46, like a rock star when he arrived, chanting his social media nickname, “Gee Hov,” as he set up a speaker system hooked to a generator under a tree. Collingswood police and school officials, including Superintendent Fred McDowell, watched from across the street.

“We gonna be protesting until we get the change,” Frazier posted on his Facebook page. “They can’t stop us. Let’s show them we not gonna be silent anymore.”

During the peaceful two-hour protest, students cited a list of allegations against school officials including racial profiling. The group included students of all races, some waving signs that read “Black Lives Matter.” Severals students said Black classmates are disproportionately disciplined.

“It seems like the Black children get expelled and reprimanded for things that white students don’t,” said Heather Terry, who is white and the mother of a mixed-race student. “I’m so upset.”

When McDowell eventually ventured into the crowd, students asked for a response to their accusations and he promised to address their concerns at a later time.

“In order for us to find a pathway forward, students and staff have to be at the table,” McDowell told the crowd. ‘‘That means we have to do the work. We’re not going to stand out in the middle of the street and argue what solutions are.”

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Following the afternoon’s protest, McDowell said that the Camden County district was “troubled” by the students’ allegations and applauded them for organizing a peaceful rally to share their concerns.

“In Collingswood Public Schools, we believe that all students and staff are to be treated with dignity and respect,” McDowell said. “Now that concerns have been raised, it is the district’s responsibility to provide the students and staff with the support and resources needed to address them in a manner consistent with our values.”

Frazier, who has organized similar protests in the region, went to thehigh school Tuesday after learning about an incident involving two Black female students. According to reports, the students were discussing a lack of Black history lessons in the school when they got into an altercation with a counselor described as “hostile” in a Facebook post put online by a student and shared by others.

School officials, citing an abundance of caution, placed the school under a shelter-in-place order Tuesday after Frazier led the first walkout.

The school enrolls about 750 students in grades 9-12. The student population is 51% white, 25.6% Hispanic, 16.2% Black, 2.6% Asian, and 0.5% Pacific Islander and Native American, according to the latest School Performance Report by the state Department of Education

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