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Dozens Protest Lack Of Inclusion At Sewickley Academy

EDGEWORTH, Pa. (KDKA) - One day after police were called on students and parents at Sewickley Academy, dozens protested outside the school.

The students said they feel unsafe in their own school and want that to change. About 50 people made up the hour-long protest.

It was right at the entrance of the school and is the latest in a series of things that have caused tensions to escalate for the past several months.

Sewickley Academy students took lessons into action.

"When people aren't fighting for us, we have to fight for ourselves. When we fight for ourselves, we are constantly being punished. Who is there to help us?" senior Anthony Wiles said.

Students said they hear racist and homophobic comments in the school, creating an unsafe environment. They peacefully demanded change from school leaders.

"We feel unsafe. We don't feel supported by the administration," senior Aizah Kamal said.

"And that has created even more tension because we feel as though we have no support system," Wiles said.

Sewickley Academy has parted ways with several administrators and faculty since last summer. With many of them being people of color, some feel a support system was taken away.

"Not once were any of us directed to a support system," Wiles said.

It came to a tipping point with police being called on Thursday when students tried to take a petition to the head of schools, Dr. Ashley Birtwell.

In an email to families, school leaders say police were called to ensure safety as the group became disorderly. Friday, KDKA asked Birtwell if she thought police should have been called. She said since she wasn't there she couldn't give an opinion.

"At an independent school like Sewickley Academy, I would hope that we can come together internally as a community to deescalate to diffuse such situations," Birtwell said.

As for consequences, Birtwell says no students will be punished, and she's committed to finding a solution to their concerns.

"I'm using their input and trying to spend a lot of time listening in hearing out all our constituencies. Students, parents, faculty and staff, alumni of what they want to see for the future," Birtwell told KDKA.

Students said Friday's protest wasn't to put their school in a bad light. Instead, they say they want an academy they can be proud of.

"It's important to be allowed to voice your own opinion, everyone is entitled to that. A school community is supposed to foster that dialogue," Kamal said.

As for the faculty member who was reportedly fired for supporting students Thursday, Birtwell says she has the final word and it's still being investigated.

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