ACLU files complaint over racially divided school assemblies
Posted May 29, 2008
Raleigh, N.C. — The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina filed a complaint Thursday with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on behalf of two parents of black students at Dillard Drive Middle School.
The complaint stems from a situation last December when Principal Teresa Abron held separate assemblies for black and Hispanic students after a fight at her school.
“Parents have done everything they can to work with the school system, and have received very little in return,” said Rebecca Headen, ACLU-NC racial justice project coordinator. “They are not asking for much – just an acknowledgment that the decision to target their children for discipline based on race and ethnicity was made in error and assurance that it won’t happen again.”
In February, a Wake County citizens group announced that it supported the principal.
In a news release, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children said Abron “should be commended for her efforts to counsel the students who were accused of fighting.”
“As a community we believe that (Abron) should be commended for displaying courage, integrity, honor and commitment to our students here,” the statement read.
Abron said she pulled seventh-graders from class last December because of a fight between a black girl and a Hispanic girl.
Wake County public school officials said the fight had gang overtones and that one of the girls wore an article of clothing to school in an effort to intimidate the other girl.
In an internal e-mail sent after the fight, school administrators asked teachers to send black students to the school's auditorium, and when they returned, to send Hispanic students. The e-mail asked teachers to be as discreet as possible when dismissing the students.
"All of the students were not involved, but we were not able to identify all of the students," Abron said. "We prefaced our conversation with telling the students that, 'We know some of you don't need to be here.'"
White students were not called to the assembly, Abron said, because they were not identified as being involved. Had they been, they would also have been called, she said.
Concerned parents and community members contacted the Raleigh office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, and the ACLU-NC for assistance, ACLU officials said.
Parents then requested a meeting with Abron, which was refused by Area Superintendent Julye Mizelle, ACLU officials said.
After parents held a public protest outside Wake County Public School System headquarters, they were told they could choose two parents to meet privately with school board members and the superintendent.
"No solution was reached at that meeting," according to the ACLU's news release.