GUILDERLAND, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Students now demand the Guilderland Central School District do more to make them feel safe at school after an incident at Friday’s football game sparked talks of discrimination and racial insensitivity.

Superintendent Dr. Marie Wiles confirms the student-led group “Red Sea” set the theme for the game as “blackout” when students would wear all black to the away game against Christian Brothers Academy. However, a few reportedly took it too far by painting their faces black as well.

“[Red Sea] is not a group that is officially advised by the school district,” explains Dr. Wiles. “School clubs or teams usually have an entire approval process they need to go through before having events, putting up posters, things like that.”

At NEWS10’s last check, the students in question were suspended. Wiles says high school students also walked out of classes on Monday and again in a much larger display of protest on Tuesday. She says the more than 100 students gathered in the high school lobby explaining their move was about more than a few classmates intentionally or unintentionally imitating blackface.

“It was like a tipping point that unleashed very strong feelings of hurt and alienation and not feeling safe in our school buildings that started long before Friday night,” Wiles says to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton. “We’re focusing less on the intent, which is hard to pin down or identify, and more on the impact to our students which has been enormous. They expressed to us how often they feel the sting of racial comments, microaggressions, subtle and not so subtle put-downs that happen all the time.”

“My own self reflection as a person of color, I felt their pain, felt the sadness, felt trauma, felt rejection and seclusion. The students let us know and made us feel that this was coming from a real place and a raw place,” explains Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Matt Pinchinat.

“These are students that we know, that we care about, that we love, and hearing the ways that they feel marginalized and unheard, it is impossible to hear those words and to not feel moved by them,” he goes on to say.

Pinchinat says there are already established training programs student sports teams and certain classes get throughout the year.

“With the focus on keeping things grade appropriate, it may be reading a book about friendship and being a positive friend in kindergarten or first grade. At the high school level, what that might look like is a focus on cultural competency and understanding one another,” he says.

“First addressing vantage point and the concept of your truth versus the truth and how I might see something one way and I can articulate that and I might mean it with all my heart, but that doesn’t make it the total truth. That’s not the whole story,” he further adds.

However, with 1500 students at the high school and 4800 districtwide, both Wiles and Pinchinat admit the trainings have not yet reached every student. They say as the school district attempts to move forward, adding more training opportunities is on the list of possible solutions. Dr. Wiles also says there will be greater focus on allowing students to speak their minds.

“Going forward, we are going to structure a series of smaller group, focus group kind of events where students can tell us what is your lived experience. We can learn from that and improve our climate and culture within the buildings,” she explains.

The school board’s diversity, equity, and inclusion subcommittee will also meet Wednesday night consisting of district members, students, and parents with an agenda focused on curriculum choices for the year. Wiles and Pinchinat say they both expect the topic of Friday’s incident to come up as well, and say they welcome the dialogue when deciding how best to address sensitivity.

“We know that this isn’t something where we’re going to wake up one morning and be like, well that was great, we solved everything related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s a process that’s going to keep on evolving and one that we keep on learning from,” Pinchinat says.