Wake County Public Schools calls racist online chat 'vile and thoughtless'
Posted October 29, 2019 7:15 a.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2019 7:39 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Board of Education is responding to a racist online chat and a series of hateful posts driven by a group of local students.
The letter, circulated Oct. 24, references the racial incidents that occurred earlier this month. On Oct. 10, school officials said two East Wake High students and five students from Corinth Holders High School in Johnston County participated in the chat, which included messages such as #bringslaveryback and racial slurs.
In the letter, officials called the chat "racist, vile and thoughtless" and said the East Wake High School students involved have faced "appropriate consequences."
The letter states that Wake County schools will address racism with programs and initiatives in the coming weeks. Both Cathy Moore, WCPSS Superintendent, and James Martin, Board Chair, signed the letter.
Fourteen-year-old Cenayia Edwards, who is black, was able to infiltrate the group after hearing about the racially charged conversations on social media. She said she was hurt by what she read and the lack of response by the school district.
Her family complained earlier this month that the Wake County Public School System has done little to address the racist group chat.
On Oct. 24, county leaders wrote that Cenayia's courage should be commended and nurtured, "as courage is necessary to both confront what is wrong and to be a part of building what is needed."
Wake County school officials said federal student privacy laws prohibit them from discussing whether anyone was disciplined in the case. Johnston County school officials said the Corinth Holders High principal identified the students at that school who were involved in the chat group and took action against them.
Cenayia's parents said the school district's student conduct policies require some disciplinary action by East Wake High or the district against the students involved in the chat group. "They have a non-discrimination policy that is supposed to be in compliance with federal law," Cecelia Edwards said, adding that other policies address threats, bullying and harassment.
"This is not going to be accepted," Coderro Edwards said. "I am fearful for my daughter's moves – going to school, coming home from school, being at school. This is a threat to a whole community of people, not just one person."
East Wake High Principal Stacey Alston said in a video statement posted online Thursday that neither he nor other school officials condone the racist behavior exhibited in the chat room.
"This type of behavior is total unacceptable," Alston said. "This type of behavior does not reflect my values, East Wake's values nor Wake County public schools' values.'
The school plans to have discussions about race relations among students, staff, parents and others in the coming weeks, he added.
"These conversations are much needed in our community to repair after this incident," he said.
Cenayia said she holds no ill will toward her classmates, but the experience has been painful.
"I forgave one of the students but made it clear I wouldn't forget, nor could we be friends," she said. "I am ... shocked that it is 2019, and we're still doing this."