African-American and Latino Students Protest Principal Who Blocked Black History Lesson

Lead Photo: Photo by Caiaimage/Sam Edwards
Photo by Caiaimage/Sam Edwards
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As I.S. 224 Principal Patricia Catania sat in a car, students gathered around the vehicle chanting, “Black History Matters.” The administrator is embroiled in controversy following accusations that she interfered with Mercedes Liriano-Clark’s lesson on the Harlem Renaissance at the Bronx school.

When Liriano-Clark realized she had a couple posters her students created inside her car, an aide volunteered to retrieve and hand them to a sixth-grade student waiting inside the building. When the aide returned with the boards in hand, the principal confiscated them, making it impossible for the students to go through with their presentation. The 11-year-old student returned to class in tears.

“She came to me crying, and she was like, ‘Miss, I didn’t get the board. Miss Catania took them away from me,’” Liriano-Clark said.

Savannah Marie Villagomez, a sixth-grader, said she asked the principal why students at the school – which is 95 percent Latino and African-American – couldn’t learn about their history. “I asked my principal, Ms. Catania, why we were not allowed to learn about our history,” Savannah told News 12. “She said that we were not doing anything but putting pictures on boards.”

As a result of the incident, teachers, students, and their parents protested Catania’s actions and to put pressure on the school district, which is currently investigating the event. The event, which has received coverage in local and national outlets, has resurfaced some of her past transgressions against students of color. At her previous post at University Neighborhood High School, she reportedly targeted students of color as well, according to The Root.