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Racial Tension Clouds Chatham High School Graduation

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CHATHAM COUNTY — Parents may not be hearing the apology they hoped for Friday night when students graduate from Chatham Central High School. The parents asked school officials Thursday night to apologize at graduation for how they handled a controversial picture in the school's yearbook.

The meeting at Chatham Central High School lasted around two hours. Parents and citizens voiced their concerns about the picture, which showed five students with nooses. They also voiced their concerns about other recent racial incidents.

The group wanted answers. The students involved were initially suspended by the principal; the school board reduced the suspension. Parents wanted to know why.

Legally, the school board cannot discuss the case at all.

"We're certainly sorry that such a thing happened in Chatham County. We try to do everything we can to deal with it," saidChatham County SchoolsSuperintendent Larry Mabe. "But it's a lose-lose situation. Everybody loses when these kinds of things occur."

Chris Taylor, a senior at the school, told officials at the meeting about the racial problems.

Calvin Taylor, Chris' father, felt the meeting went well. "I feel like our concerns were listened to and I think some very positive actions will result from this," he said.

Not everyone agreed. The group asked for a public apology from the school board but they do not know if they are going to get it.

"It's a small thing to ask. It's words. And those words could have healed a lot of wounds, but they chose not to, in fact, they threw salt in them," Reverend Brian Thompson said.

School officials said they hope to have measures in place by the fall to curb racial hostilities. Photographer: Joe Anthony


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