[guest post by Dana]
I hope this story gets a lot of attention because it’s an important story that I don’t think should be shied away from, or worse, ignored:
An Atlanta mom filed a federal complaint against her daughter’s Atlanta elementary school after she learned that the school was separating students on the basis of race.
In the discrimination complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, parent Kila Posey claims the principal at Mary Lin Elementary School, a K-5 school in the Atlanta Public Schools system, put a segregation policy in place because she thought it was best for all students…
Posey found out last year that the elementary school would be putting Black students in two different classrooms with two different teachers and white students into six classrooms with six different teachers.
Per her attorney Sharese Shields:
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that you cannot treat one group of people differently based upon race, and that is what is going on at Mary Lin.
What makes it all the more startling is that the principal, Sharyn Briscoe, who allegedly made the decision to separate students by race, is herself a Black woman:
Posey protested the policy when it was allegedly put into place by Principal Sharyn Briscoe last year. “First, it was just disbelief that I was having this conversation in 2020 with a person that looks just like me — a Black woman,” Posey said. “It’s segregating classrooms. You cannot segregate classrooms. You can’t do it.”
Interestingly, it appears that the principal made the decision to segregate classrooms without notifying parents. If she had, there can be no doubt that it would be more than just one parent complaining:
Posey, who is vice president of operations for the parent teacher association, according to the school website, first learned of the separation after she contacted Briscoe to request that her daughter be placed in a specific classroom with a certain teacher. Briscoe replied by saying that would not work because the teacher’s classroom wasn’t for Black students, Posey claims.
“She said that’s not one of the Black classes, and I immediately said, ‘What does that mean?’ I was confused. I asked for more clarification. I was like, ‘We have those in the school?’ And she proceeded to say, ‘Yes. I have decided that I’m going to place all of the Black students in two classes,’” Posey said.
Posey pushed for her daughter not to be placed in a segregated classroom. “I explained to her she shouldn’t be isolated or punished because I’m unwilling to go along with your illegal and unethical practice,” Posey said.
In a recorded phone call between Posey and an assistant principal, the administrator confirmed that it was the principal’s idea to separate the students.
“I just wish we had more Black kids, and then some of them are in a class because of the services that they need,” the administrator said.
Atlanta Public Schools released a statement about the incident. Clearly they want people to move on from the story:
Atlanta public schools does not condone the assigning of students to classrooms based on race. The district conducted a review of the allegations. Appropriate actions were taken to address the issue and the matter was closed.
While the district may not condone assigning students to classrooms based on race, it happened. So exactly what appropriate actions were taken? How are they guarding against something like this happening again in the Atlanta school district? Why aren’t district officials going out of their way to reassure parents that this was a one-off? But what I find most significant about the district’s statement is that the district did not defend the principal nor did the district refute Posey’s claims. And I think she is absolutely correct in this:
My community, had they known about this, would probably be extremely upset. Not just the Black parents but also white parents.
As they should be. Posey wants to see the principal, and district administrators fired for allowing classroom segregation to take place in her child’s school. And why shouldn’t they be? This was a monumentally bad decision. Every parent of any color should be offended by the principal’s decision to segregate classrooms and to keep it from them. What an immoral and disheartening message to send children, and what a slap in the face to parents. If the school is willing to make such a monumentally bad decision without parental notification, what other decisions might they be making about which parents are unaware?