N.Y.C. officials probe Staten Island assistant principal's Facebook post decried as racist

An online petition demanding Deborah Morse-Cunningham's termination said the rhetoric in the Facebook statement is "troubling and problematic."

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By Janelle Griffith

New York City education officials are investigating a Staten Island assistant principal after a statement about privilege, taking aim at people who receive government assistance or are unemployed, was posted to her Facebook page.

The post that appeared on the page of New Dorp High School assistant principal Deborah Morse-Cunningham, 48, began by asking, "What is privilege?"

"Privilege is wearing $200 sneakers when you've never had a job," read the statement that has since been removed. "Privilege is wearing $300 Beats headphones while living on public assistance."

It added: "Privilege is living in public subsidized housing where you don’t have a water bill, where rising property taxes and rents and energy costs have absolutely no effect on the amount of food you can put on your table."

The post has been slammed as racist and prompted a Change.org petition demanding her termination. The petition has more than 9,400 signatures.

"As someone responsible for the tutelage of our youth, this is especially troubling and problematic rhetoric to say the least," the petition states. "This leads me to question what kind of practices she's instilled in the culture at New Dorp High School, and what kind of environment our children are learning in, especially Black youth."

The petition said Morse-Cunningham, who has been an assistant principal at New Dorp High School since 2007, "has decided to use her platform and social media presence to post anti-Black messaging."

New Dorp High School had a student body that is 52 percent white, 27 percent Hispanic or Latino and 10 percent Black or African American in 2018-2019, according to the New York State Education Department.

Miranda Barbot, a spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Education, said in a statement that it "stands against racism and schools must be safe and inclusive learning environments.

"Teachers and staff have a responsibility to uphold those values, and the principal reported this incident for investigation," Barbot said.

Morse-Cunningham did not immediately return requests for comment Tuesday.

Last week, a Georgia mayor came under fire after he posted the same statement on privilege to a Facebook community group. Benjamin Rozier, the mayor of Bloomingdale, about 18 miles from downtown Savannah, declined to comment when reached last week.

In a statement on Facebook, the Bloomingdale City Council and administration said it was aware of the post Rozier made last Tuesday.

"The Bloomingdale City Council wishes to state collectively that this action taken by Mayor Rozier is his action and his action alone," the statement on the city's page said. "We in no way condone or endorse any single or collective posts made by the Mayor."