Comic to Montclair schools district: How is my video ‘offensive?’
MONTCLAIR — An out-of-state comedian has found himself at the center of a township dispute between a since removed principal and school district administrators who called a video shared during a virtual presentation "offensive." The entertainer also has questioned why his race was made to be an issue.
The comedian, Josh Pray, shared a video to Youtube on Saturday titled "Dear Montclair Public School System."
In that video, Pray questions other published reports about last week's incident, which described him as a "Black man, yelling about virtual learning."
Joseph Putrino, who had been principal at the Renaissance at Rand Middle School, used a Zoom staff session Wednesday to show a video by Pray, ranting about how sorry he was for teachers amid the difficulties of pandemic home instruction for his two children.
Montclair Schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds then stopped the video after several staff members those online voiced objection to the content, as previously reported.
Pray also issued a lengthy written statement on Facebook and Instagram in which he said "In a time where it feels like all we have are heated and rash decisions, the Montclair Public School System has made yet another heated and rash decision based on the color of my skin. I am completely bewildered as to why my race was brought into this conversation."
The Montclair NAACP was among individuals and groups who have been critical of the video's usage during the virtual session.
“Principal Putrino has a history of complaints of racial insensitivity during his tenure as a leader in the Montclair School District. While we appreciate the intervention of Superintendent Ponds during the incident, we believe that the District needs to take immediate action to remedy this situation," according to a written statement from Montclair NAACP President Albert Pelham first released last week and confirmed Sunday to New Jersey 101.5.
Renaissance at Rand Middle School's assistant principal, Major Jennings, has become acting principal, as announced by Ponds at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting.
In the initial video by Pray shared by Putrino, the comedian says “Most parents ain’t gonna be big enough to apologize to every educator, every after-school program person that took care of my kids. I’m going to be the first to admit it. It’s been two days and I want to go on record apologizing."
"I have spoken with the principal and his legal team, no one from the Montclair Public School System has reached out to me to inquire about the intent of the specific video or my mission with my works in general," Pray continued in his written statement, noting that contact information was posted on all of his social media platforms.
"Instead, the superintendent, the interim principal, and other board members have made assertions that cover a wide range of uninformed and reproachful personal opinions," Pray said in his statement.
In a separate video posted to Facebook, Pray speaks more spontaneously on the issue and says "You think you're just going to call me offensive, racist Black man and not have to answer to — I don't care what demographic or denomination, that you are from."
"I have so many questions, but my main question is this: how is my video of thanking and appreciating teachers with heartfelt fervor ‘racist’ and ‘offensive’?" Pray's written statement said.
Ponds did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.
With previous reporting by Sergio Bichao and Dan Alexander
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