Black Parents And Education Experts Defend Atlanta Principal Accused Of Segregating Students By Race
An education expert said the principal's decision may have been beneficial for the students.
August 23, 2021 at 6:02 pm
Update (August 23, 2021): After a mother in Atlanta said that her children's elementary school is segregating students by designating classes for only Black kids, other parents are defending the school.
"All anyone has to do is pick up a yearbook from last year and previous years to see that any claim of grouping Black students together is obviously ridiculous," a group of Black families from Mary Lin Elementary School said in a statement to CNN. "We have a small number of Black students, but it's a very loving and inclusive community of families of all races and backgrounds, led by our well-respected principal."
The families also said they are concerned for their own safety because the complaint from Kila Posey has made the school a “target of hateful and harassing phone calls and emails."
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, former president of Spelman College and author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations about Race, said the principal, Sharyn Briscoe, may have been following psychological research. According to Tatum, studies show that when there are three or more students of a minority group in one classroom, they are more likely to be seen as individuals and not stereotyped.
"It is beneficial to not be a token," Tatum said. "What I imagine is that the principal was trying to create a learning environment where no Black child would have to be in that uncomfortable position."
Andee Schroeder, a white parent who has a third-grade son at Mary Lin, agreed with the research, saying the principal may have had good intentions if she designated classes for Black students.
"It's unfortunate that this (controversy) is happening over what is probably a good practice," Schroeder said. "She works her tail off to make sure every child is set up for success."
Another Black parent at Mary Lin said she feels comforted when there are other Black students in class with her daughter.
"I'm not appalled, I'm not offended by the idea that gender matters, temperament matters, needs matter and that race matters," she said. "I would say I'm glad my child won't be the lonely only."
Original (August 14, 2021): Kila Posey, a mother in Atlanta, Georgia, has filed a federal discrimination complaint against her daughter's school after learning that Black students were being separated from their white peers. Posey said she learned about the discriminatory practice at Mary Lin Elementary School last year when her daughter was a second-grade student, the New York Daily News reported.
Before she became aware of the school's process, the Georgia mother went to principal Sharyn Briscoe to ask for a specific second-grade teacher for her daughter. The principal, however, said the girl cannot be enrolled in that class because that's "not one of the Black classes."
"I was confused," Posey said. "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.’”
Briscoe, who is also Black, said the school implemented the rule to provide students with better opportunities. The principal also said Posey's daughter would feel like an outsider if she's put in one of the six all-white classrooms.
“As a Black parent, what I’m hearing is my kid doesn’t have the options of six teachers that may work with her learning style,” Posey told NBC News. “I only get two [teachers]. How is that right? A white parent can get all six.”
Sharese Shields, the family's attorney said the school is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs that receive federal assistance.
"It's a bit shocking that in 2021 that you would have a public school administrator engage in that practice, particularly given that administrator is a Black woman herself," Shields said. "As an administrator, she should be well-versed in the law and know that you can't treat one group of students based on race differently than other groups of students."
Posey said she recorded two audio files in secret and sent it to federal officials as part of the complaint. The first audio captured a conversation with an assistant principal at the school last August. According to the plaintiff, the administrator in that recording admitted that "she was aware Ms. Briscoe had developed a second-grade class roster based upon, in part, the race of the students."
The second audio, according to the complaint, was recorded during an interview with a district administrator. Briscoe acknowledged during that conversation that she "had indeed designated classes for Black students," the lawsuit states.
The 43-year-old mother, who has two children at Mary Lin Elementary School and a husband who also works as a psychologist at the school, said she is still shocked by what she heard. She is especially disturbed because she learned about the incident around the same time as last year's Black Lives Matter uprising.
"That was the summer of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all the names," she said. "We marched all around the world, and I'm having a conversation with somebody who looks exactly like me about Black classes. That was unbelievable."
Posey, who has 17 years of experience as an educator, has subsequently filed a Civil Rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, CBS 46 reported.
"We want to make sure this practice is not going on," the mother said. "The second thing we want to make sure is that this administration team, they need to scrap it and start over."
The school district responded with a statement, saying "appropriate actions were taken to address the issue and the matter was closed."
However, the district declined to specifically describe the measures that have been taken.