Flagler County, Florida, has found itself at the epicenter of an unfolding education controversy. Black students at Bunnell Elementary School were unexpectedly pulled out from their classes to attend an assembly about their underwhelming performance on standardized tests. Here’s the full story.
Racial Profiling Incident Shakes School District
School district officials expressed regret on Wednesday after confirming the incident, which has not only incited concerns of racial profiling but also raised broader questions about the methods the district employs to address student performance.
Exclusive Assembly for Black Students Raises Outrage and Questions
This exclusive assembly was designated only for Black students in the fourth and fifth grades.
Segregation by Race
Even those who had passing grades were removed from their classes, an action based solely on their racial background, as confirmed by Flagler Schools spokesman Jason Wheeler.
To further fuel the flames, a PowerPoint presentation, riddled with typographical errors and titled “AA Presentation,” was shown. It highlighted that Black students, identified as “AA” or African Americans, had consistently underperformed on standardized tests over a three-year period.
A particular slide titled “The Problem” was especially problematic, spotlighting and isolating the supposed underperformance of Black students on tests.
Emotional Trauma and Distress
The repercussions of this were immediate. Parents have expressed their shock and outrage, particularly because they were kept in the dark about this event.
Many have voiced the emotional trauma their nine and 10-year-old children endured, as teachers painted dire consequences for those who don’t excel in their exams. Comments that implied prison time or even death have reportedly terrified young students.
Parents Express Disbelief and Disappointment
Jacinda Arrington, a parent, conveyed her disbelief and disappointment, stating to WOFL, an Orlando-based Fox affiliate, that the assembly sent a heart-wrenching message to her child, “It told my child that she was not good enough. The color of your skin means that you are not good enough when, in fact, she’s one of the smartest kids in her class.”
Similarly, Alexis Smith, another concerned parent, shared her son’s distress after the assembly. He had been left asking her, “So I’m going to die, I’m going to get shot, I’m going to go to jail if I don’t do right?”
Incentives Gone Wrong
In a bid to incentivize academic improvement, these students were offered McDonald’s meals. Flagler interim superintendent LaShakia Moore pointed out that while the intent was commendable, the execution was far from it.
The question that arises then is: How did this happen? Why did an educational institution, which is supposed to foster inclusivity, instead actively segregate and demoralize a group based on their ethnicity?
Flagler’s Interim Superintendent Addresses the Issue
Moore, who herself is Black, acknowledged the oversight, adding, “Sometimes, when you try to think ‘outside the box,’ you forget why the box is there.”
Acknowledgment and Apology
She explained that she thought that Donelle Evensen, Bunnell Elementary’s new principal, had no ill intentions when organizing the student outreach. However, Moore also recognized the assembly’s problematic nature and issued a video apology to parents.
However, Moore’s acknowledgment of the issue and the subsequent apology did little to ease the community’s outrage.
School Board Responds
Cheryl Massaro, the County School Board Chair, shared the sentiments of many, expressing that the racially exclusive event was inappropriate, even if it wasn’t rooted in malice.
She confirmed that the School Board was uninformed about the assembly’s specifics and stated, “It’s sad that it was segregated by race because that’s not fair. But that’s what happened.”
Community Demands Action
The lack of clarity regarding the more alarming claims from parents about the threats of death or incarceration to their children further fuels the growing controversy.
Implications Beyond the District
However, the implications of this event go beyond the Flagler County school district. This incident reflects a wider issue as Florida undergoes a significant transformation in its approach to teaching race and history.
“Horrible, Horrific Mistake”
At a recent press conference, officials from Flagler County’s school district termed the assembly as a “horrible, horrific mistake.” Cheryl Massaro reinforced that “The Flagler School Board does not support segregation.”
Principal Relieved From Duty
In light of the incident, the school’s principal has been temporarily relieved from duty, with an investigation underway.
However, parents and teachers think the school district and other institutions need a long, hard look at their protocols to ensure that such a divisive event does not happen again.
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