A North Carolina school board voted unanimously Monday to approve an action plan after it was reported racial harassment in the district, including a student-organized mock auction of black students.
A group of parents and community members had urged the Chatham County School District to make changes citing several reported cases of racial harassment in district schools.
In a March 4 Facebook post, Ashley Palmer said her black son told her that some of his classmates were sold in a mock slave auction at JS Waters School, which serves grades K-8.
“Our son experienced a slave auction by his classmates and when it opened up, we realized this sort of thing seemed to be the norm so much that he thought it wasn’t worth sharing. His friend ‘went for $350’ and another student was the slave master because he ‘knew how to handle them,’” Palmer wrote in his post. She wrote that the students also sang the n-word.
In a later post, Palmer said that the students involved in the auction received a one-day suspension, and alleges her son was assaulted by a classmate and has faced “continuous harassment” at the school since he reported the incident.
During public comment at the Chatham County School Board meeting on Monday, several other students, parents and community members spoke to the board about their own experiences with racism.
Before presenting his action plan, Superintendent Anthony Jackson made an apology to all those affected by recent events.
“As a father, as an educator, as a grandfather, tonight was very difficult. It’s difficult to sit here and listen and hear and hurt for our children. Schools are for children, and as partners with parents, we are responsible for helping students realize their full potential. As many people identified tonight, creating safe environments for students is the first promise schools make to families,” he said.
“As a newcomer to our school system and to this community, before I offer any plans, I want to do something that needs to be done here publicly. I want to offer an apology. An apology to every single student who has ever felt unsafe while in our care. To every student who has ever felt demeaned, disrespected or marginalized because of their race, ethnicity, sex, gender, religion or disability.”
He continued, “In Chatham County Schools we proudly boast that diversity is our strength and moving forward it will be our intentional focus to ensure that this celebration includes everyone. Moving forward my personal commitment to you is that we will do better.”
Jackson’s action plan included changes in the district policy to how discriminatory situations would be handled from start to finish, including notification of parents and guardians, investigation, discipline, social support and resources for victims, staff training and an after-action plan.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: KTVZ.COM