Local News

School assemblies segregated students, civil rights group says

Posted March 10, 2009 10:25 a.m. EDT
Updated March 10, 2009 11:42 a.m. EDT

— The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has found that a Dillard Drive Middle School principal did segregate black and Hispanic students by holding separate assemblies, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina said Tuesday.

On Dec. 4, 2007, principal Teresa Abron pulled seventh-graders from class after a fight that morning between a black girl and a Hispanic girl.

Abron said in a December 2007 interview that she and an assistant principal talked to the students about conduct, grades, respect and responsibility.

White students were not called to the assembly, she said, because none of them was identified as being involved in the fight. Had they been, they would also have been called, she said.

Citing the Office for Civil Rights' findings, the state ACLU said in a news release that "there is sufficient evidence to find that the district did, in fact, treat students differently based on their race."

Abron's actions drew criticism and support.

The state ACLU said she "unwittingly perpetuated" a stereotype that students of color are "problem students" who must be dealt with and that white students are less likely to get into trouble.

It later filed a complaint with the Department of Education's civil rights office, which enforces civil rights in schools.

Other groups, such as the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children, supported Abron, saying she "should be commended for her efforts to counsel the students who were accused of fighting.”

Wake County Public School System spokesman Michael Evans says the school system has apologized to parents and students and has promised to take measures to prevent such actions from happening again.

"We sent (a) letter to parents two weeks ago as a result of this decision," Evans said. "We cooperated fully with the Department of Education investigation and have made assurances that this type of situation would not happen in the future."