Passing Drivers Yell Racial Slurs at Students

In the past few weeks, Andover students have seen an uptick in the number of racially charged and aggressive encounters with passing drivers. In at least four different encounters, racial slurs were yelled at students, with trash being thrown in at least two instances.

Many Andover students have heard of “catboner” drive-bys- the crude phrase is often yelled at Andover students from passing cars. While many students have been “catbonered” before, the use of racial slurs and throwing of garbage has not been typical of catbonering incidents in the past.

Martha Fenton, Dean of West Quad North, said that the encounters were the focus of the administrators, the cluster deans, and Phillips Academy Public Safety (PAPS).

“There were different racial slurs that were used and…just behavior that’s not acceptable, and that obviously worries us. We checked on the kids that were involved, and we also made sure that [Mark] Leonard, [Director of Public Safety], was aware, that public safety was keeping a closer eye, and that the town police were aware,” said Fenton.

One incident occurred a few weeks ago when Jada Li ’21 was walking back to her dorm, Chase Hall. A black truck pulled up alongside her and an occupant began yelling racial slurs at her, while another passenger threw a water bottle at a student walking behind Li.

“A boy stuck out his head and yelled, ‘Well, I’ll tell this fucking bitch that she’s a ch*nk.’…I’ve been called that before, but it still makes me quite mad. I don’t ever want to get used to it because it happens all the time. I have a right to be angry and I was. It’s a racial slur and that’s never okay, especially from a white boy I’ve never seen before,” wrote Li in an email to The Phillipian.

Claude Sayi ’21 described another situation that occured in West Quad North in front of Bishop Hall. A car had pulled up in front of Bishop and the occupants confronted Ray Shoemaker ’20 and Nick Thomas ’21, among others.

“They came in front of Bishop and then they confronted one of my friends, and then that’s when they were using racial slurs. Then they hopped out of the car, and they were about to try to confront my friend- his name is Ray [Shoemaker ’20]. But then that’s when Nick Thomas [’21] and others came, and then that’s when they hopped back in the car and they drove off,” said Sayi.

Though Leonard cautioned students to remain as non-confrontational as possible during these types of encounters, he also advised them to try and remember identifying aspects about the vehicle.

“First and foremost, make sure you’re safe…You don’t want to do anything such as respond, retaliate- certainly don’t want to put yourself in that position. My biggest suggestion would just be the best witness you can be, to try to get as many details as you can, and most importantly- typically they are in a vehicle- to try to get a plate number with the state and the plate number as accurately as you can,” said Leonard.

Another incident occurred when Will Harmon ’22 was walking back from the Abbot Cluster Munch two weeks ago. A car slowed down next to him on Main Street, and then the passengers opened the door, shouted racial slurs, and threw trash at Harmon.

Harmon didn’t notice the car until his friend Mary Muromcew ’22 yelled at him from across the street.

“They opened the door and started throwing trash at me, and I had my airpods and so I didn’t hear any of it. But one of my friends was there and she said that they cussed me out and called me the n-word. And they were all white. So yeah, it was pretty bad,” said Harmon.

Muromcew said, “I’ve been catbonered, but I’ve never seen [drivers] say the n-word or hateful language. The catboner thing is fine- I don’t take offense to it- but that was offensive.”

Sayi experienced a similar encounter to Li and Harmon while walking to Pine Knoll with a group of friends. Sayi explained that a white Jeep full of middle to high-school aged students shouted at the group as they drove by. While Sayi and his friends did not understand what has happening at first, they soon retorted with comments.

“They just started screaming and jeering towards us,” said Sayi.

Leonard said that PAPS is working with Andover Police to stop these occurrences.

Leonard said, “It should not happen period…It’s unfortunate, and the local police saying they feel the same way…They do their best to discourage it and try to hold those accountable.”