Gazette Ceases Publication: Donates Archives to LHS

In 2010, the Larchmont Gazette ceased publication. In 2011 the publishers donated all contents to the Larchmont Historical Society, which will continue to make the Gazette archives available online.

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Racial Taunts at Hommocks Prompt On-line Debate

The cruel taunts of some sixth grade girls at the Hommocks about Mamaroneck Avenue School (MAS) have one mother – and a raft of on-line commentators – debating whether to blame bigotry, poor parenting, Larchmont elitism, policies toward immigrants or just, plain human nature.  Comments also varied widely on how to react:  Should the school get involved? The community? Parents? Or should kids learn to work out their problems among themselves?

The incident was first aired on September 16 via the local blog LyndaLarch10538. A reader identified only as “Katherine” recounted how her daughter, a Mamaroneck Avenue School graduate, had been teased by several Chatsworth Elementary School graduates for coming from “the ghetto school with all the poor dirty Mexicans.”

MAS is one of four neighborhood elementary schools feeding into the Hommocks Middle School. MAS students  live in Mamaroneck Village or the unincorporated area of Mamaroneck Town; almost all Chatsworth students live in Larchmont Village and almost all Murray Avenue School students live in the unincorporated area of Mamaroneck Town. Central School pulls from all three municipalities. The schools vary in size and in their demographics, as seen in data collected by the New York State Department of Education in 2007-2008.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS Central Chatsworth Murray MAS Hommocks
Eligible for Free or Reduced Price Lunch 8% 2% 0% 28% 5%
Black or African American 5% 2% 1% 5% 3%
Hispanic or Latino 17% 7% 2% 45% 15%
Asian/Pacific Islander 8% 3% 2% 6% 5%
White 70% 89% 93% 43% 77%
Number of Students N=477 N=620 N=708 N=522 N=1115

The Blog Debate

After her daughter’s experience, the MAS mother wrote on LyndaLarch10538: “This is disgraceful in a community that prides itself in its liberalism,” and asked for comments. The mother also contacted the Larchmont Gazette this month and agreed to discuss the posting, while retaining her anonymity. “A few of those girls are really, really mean – and will only get meaner,” she explained.

Katherine certainly got the discussion she requested: 90 comments as of October 14.  According to “LyndaLarch,” only one other posting has received as many responses since she began blogging in 2006.

Katherine got a lot of support – for her position and for Mamaroneck Avenue School. Forty-four of the posts expressed similar outrage and/or blamed Chatsworth or Larchmont adults for tolerating or even fostering racism or elitism.

“Kids hear these sorts of things from their parents and other adults. It’s racist, elitist and I am embarrassed to live in a community with people who teach their children such things,” wrote one anonymous poster.

Others wrote specifically of their love for MAS and its strengths. “Both of my children went to MAS and perhaps you are actually JEALOUS that yours did not! They have been (and are currently) in the advance placement classes and it is due to the education they received at MAS,” posted “Anon 7:40 AM.”  Nancy Wasserman, widow of pediatrician Dr. Eugene Wasserman, wrote about how her attachment to the school has led her to remain in the community.

Mamaroneck Avenue School classroom. Photo by Linnet Tse

Mamaroneck Avenue School classroom. Photo by Linnet Tse

However, 19 posts disagreed – or took offense – at Katherine’s comments. Some suggested she was overreacting or unfairly stereotyping Chatsworth students or parents.  “This is reality,” posted “Anon 2:20. “Grow thicker skin,” recommended Anon 9:41.  “A Proud Chatsworth Parent Who Doesn’t Like the Broad Brush That is Being Painted on Me” accused Katherine of “playing the MAS vs Chatsworth card” and the “race card.”

A small minority blamed the incident on frustration with special programs for Hispanics and on the burden of illegal immigrants. “A Fed up Democrat” pointed to MAS having “a pre K, while no other elementary school in the district has one” and to the “1/2 hour welcome from the Hommocks principal” at back to school night. “Where was my welcome?”

Others pushed back. “The idea that any posters here would tolerate this kind of behavior in a civil society is a testimony enough to the fact that there is a problem,” wrote Jonathan Sacks.

“There is a lot of hatred for Hispanics,” Katherine told the Gazette. ” I was surprised at some of the attacks.” However she believes “a lot of it is economic – if these were wealthy Hispanics, A-Rod’s kids, it would be another thing. Larchmont moms would be in front of the school pretending their kids went there.”

Response from the Hommocks

Katherine and her daughter opted not to reveal names of the Chatsworth girls to authorities at the school, but they did speak with the principal, Dr. Seth Weitzman, after he learned of the incident and reached out through an intermediary. “He was very quick to act on it,” said the mother. The girl’s counselor is also involved.

When he was growing up, bullying was considered “a rite of passage,” said Dr. Weitzman. “Today we practice a ‘zero tolerance’ policy toward bullying, recognizing its impact on children and school climate.”

“The way we handle all sorts of bullying situations is to talk to all of the children and then to their parents,” explained the principal. In “98% of cases, the parents are supportive.” He said he understood the reluctance to name names, but added, “We can only do so much if we don’t know who [the bullies] are.”

Asked about the racist nature of the taunts, Dr. Weitzman said “it is certainly not common, but from time-to time we learn about children hurling all sorts of epithets – religious, ethnic and racial. I think they’re influenced by what they see in the media and they are feeling their oats.” He added, “There is no group that hasn’t been the victim – and no group that hasn’t been the perpetrator.”

In addition to addressing specific incidents, the Hommocks curriculum includes “pro-social character-building.” Beginning last year, the guidance counselors have been teaching a 12-class program.

Asked about the social mix at the Hommocks, Dr. Weitzman said by Thanksgiving of their first year, students tend to have made new friends who attended elementary schools other than their own. But he acknowledged a tendency for students to self-segregate in the cafeteria by race. “The adults do too,” he said. “As adults we should also be thinking about how we mix in the community – we can’t expect the children to be much better than the adults.”

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14 comments to Racial Taunts at Hommocks Prompt On-line Debate

  • Larchmont Resident

    Is the Gazette still alive? Your site has been so stale that I thought you folded up your tent.

    This was a nasty war waged on the other blog (that makes it easier to be anonymous – - for good or for bad) that shouldn’t be repeated.

    I’d leave “well enough” (actually a far from the truth) alone.

  • Joseph

    Perhaps we need to mix up the schools and assign students randomly. We already have the buses…

  • Proud Mamaroneck Resident

    It seems to me that the angry Larchmont resident may be one of the mom’s of the mean girls! Why attack the Gazette, it’s an excellent site! The attacks on Mamaroneck Ave School have been around forever. Before the attacks on the Hispanics it was the Italians.

  • Roxy

    Ignorance begins at home….

  • next town over

    I work in Larchmont, but I am so glad that I live in the next town over. There is such a high level of dysfunction and mean spiritedness in Larchmont. It seems that so many have lost sight of what’s important in life.

  • lesley seymour

    great piece. i’m glad you cover the controversy like this. this is real journalism. do not shy away

  • joepud

    went to mas back in the 50s…would not change my experience for anything…we all got along..even back then the larchmont kids thought they were better,but it didnt us at all..we had our own way of doing things and our “mommies and daddies” never got involved

  • Marissa

    One of the greatest pleasures of living in this community is its great diversity. We should be teaching our children that they are privileged to experience it. There should be no room for hate. What kind of life is that be our kids and our community?

  • rosita fichtel

    I agree that the girls who made the comments to Katherine’s child were despicable, but in much of the blog’s commentary all Chatsworth children and parents were painted with the same brush as being bigoted. Equally despicable.

    There may be an obnoxious group of kids in the school population, but let us not forget that the most serious racial discrimination to Latinos has been by adults in the Village of Mamaroneck with the day laborers!! Pointing fingers and getting hysterical is unproductive and unintelligent.

    Katherine should have gone to the principal to talk about the problem, identify the children involved and work out a solution. Maybe the Hommocks needs to have some sensitivity training for incoming 6th graders and their parents. But to make this an open, ugly battle is ridiculous!

    I do not think this is a racist community although there will always be some families that have racist sentiments in any community. Most people live in Larchmont/Mamaroneck precisely because there is a mix of cultures.

    I grew up with parents who were immigrants, Spanish speaking with heavy accents, Jewish and Catholic. All my life I have heard “comments.” Haven’t you? I hope this does not get blown out of proportion. This should be resolved with the students involved and NOT made into a community issue!

  • Gorgeous gal

    Some of these posts are hilarious!

    Larchmont kids are a bit stuck up.But deep down they are really good kids and have hearts of gold. I don’t think they ever walk around thinking they were better, it is just a way of behaving that comes naturally.

    Now, if you want to see really stuck up I suggest you take a stroll over to some of the private schools in the tri-state area and some of the public schools in Chappaqua, Scarsdale, Rye and other areas where the HH income is quite high. The kids are only behaving the way they were brought up – with a great deal of self esteem…perhaps a bit of entitlement too ;-) But that will wear off down the road once they get into the real world. Don’t you worry.

  • class of 2010

    Im now a senior at Mamaroneck High school and i went to Mamaroneck Ave School. I have experience with those mean girls in middle school and i HATED Hommocks. I am so proud to have gone to MAS ( i’m still best friends with the people i met in elementary school). I think it’s really sad that the generations have grown to such low levels, it does not surprise me these mean girls went to chatsworth and murray, because the same mean girls in the Class of 2010 are still from chatsworth and murray, and are known for their cattiness. Not to mention i’m taking 4 AP courses and i’m on my way to a very successful future. chatsworth and murray have nothing on me

  • ExLarchmonter

    I was born and raised in Larchmont but have lived elsewhere for the past 18 years. Guess what? There are mean people everywhere….and they’re are nice people everywhere too. I went to Hommocks and I hated it also. It’s middle school, girls are mean in middle school, in all states. I was picked on and had nasty things said to me also (and worse). Instead of parents making an issue of this publicly, teach your kids to deal with it and learn from it. Chances are that they have at one time or another been the mean one even if not intentional. It’s a learning curve that all kids go through. We’ve all had our feeling hurt at one point, and we’re better for it as we grow. This is all much a do about nothing. Let’s move on and drop the “racial” stuff. It’s getting old.

  • Steaming Stanley

    Make mine a Triple Play!!


    (and here’s some more insight: WASP MALES also hated that place – it took no prisoners. Funny though, it looked like a prison on the outside and felt like one on the inside while I was there in the 70s too)

    Question – did any one actually LIKE HOMMOCKS??? Please, I’d like to know of anyone out there that enjoyed that experience? It’s a horrible school from top to bottom. Always was and Always will be. MHS and the Four elementary schools were fine. Hommocks was vile.

    The gym classes were the worst. Rushing out of that $#@^ pool with wet hair and always in trouble for being late to the next class. The swim classes were for remedial level swimmers. But with all the water that surrounds our towns, most of us did not need the Hommocks curriculum teaching us how to swim, it was a WASTE OF TIME!!!

  • Dave G.

    I went to Hommocks in the 70′s after moving from Brooklyn to escape urban decay. Clearly, I was at the bottom of the Hommocks social structure. Constantly, I was cruelly teased at Hommocks. The faculty’s response, who was clearly aware of what was going on, was to let me work it out myself. Needless to say, I look back at my years at Hommocks (and MHS) with anger and sorrow.

    I had hoped that Hommocks had evolved to a community of, if not acceptance (no, you don’t have to have lunch with your lower ranks), but at least one that treats individuals with respect and common decency. I had hoped that the parents have taught their children how to tolerate differences.

    Sadly, I was wrong. The Hommocks/Larchmont community has learned nothing.

    So be it. Continue as though it does not matter. I will still hope one day you will see no one wins in the games you play and that you breed an ugly community.