EASTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Controversy over race relations continues at Easthampton High School, where a few dozen students, joined by other members of the community, participated in a protest Monday morning.

“It’s such a fragile situation, we need plans happening right now to make sure kids now feel safe,” said Isabel Poirier, a senior at Easthampton High School.

The students began their school day Monday with a rally for peace in response to recent claims of racism and discrimination, including one in which a student was assaulted after posting an alleged racial slur on social media.

22News asked Isabel, “Have you found that kids are not feeling safe in school?” She responded, “Yeah, I’ve had a lot of my friends even, a lot of people text me saying can you please help me, I don’t feel like I can stand up. Can you stand up for me?'”

Community activists and parents, like Michelle LaPlante, whose son is biracial, joined the rally. “I look around and I see the town changing, and it makes my heart smile to see the changes, but I know there are people here who are afraid of those changes,” LaPlante told 22News.

In the past month, students, parents and members of the community have started a social media campaign called #NoHateHere. It’s about spreading a message of peace and inclusiveness in Easthampton.

Easthampton’s principal and superintendent are working on a three year plan to combat bullying. Students in the rally said that’s not enough – they want change now. The principal and superintendent weren’t available for comment on the rally because also Monday morning, all students were actually attending a previously planned assembly on social justice, hosted by Collaborative for Educational Services.

“I hope students feel the message is being heard and I know some students feel frustrated…But I do think the conversations going on this morning and others that we have planned are designed to give students an opportunity not just to say things, but to truly be heard,” said Easthampton School Committee Member Peter Gunn.

Combatting racism will be a topic at the next school committee meeting Tuesday night.

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