WakeCounty Public Schools principals will converge on Cary Thursday to discuss the implications of two recent, high-profile episodes of racial disruption—incidents that have brought lost trust and even tears to some system parents.
Board of Education Chair Monika Johnson-Hostler said Tuesday that the principals, Superintendent Jim Merrill and other leaders will look for answers in the wake of the episodes. Meanwhile, officials from the Raleigh-Apex NAACP appeared at WCPS headquarters to express their dismay at the incidents and to support the school system’s efforts to deal with them.
“The faith and the trust in protecting out school children has been lost,” said Portia Rochelle, president of the chapter. “I had mothers crying on the phone saying their children were afraid to go to school. That fear is paralyzing and you can’t learn in fear.”
In one incident, a black student at Wake Forest High School was seen on a widely distributed video throwing to the ground a white student, who then used a racial epithet to refer to his classmate. A little more than a week after Johnson-Hostler spoke to reporters at school board headquarters, administrators disciplined three white Leesville Road Middle school students who had made a video using the “n-word” and other racist language referring to Jews, Hispanics and Muslims. The person who speaks in the videos, with a smirking twist of his lips, tells black people to go back to “the fields of Alabama” and to Mississippi factories.
“What we have heard and seen is absolutely reprehensible and horrific,” Johnson-Hostler said. “We are hoping that we are talking a full-breadth approach. Today I don’t know what those solutions are.”
Thursday’s meeting, which is not open to the public, is designed for crafting long- and short-term plans to deal, not only with the recent episodes with public disclosure, but also with overall problems indicating disparate treatment of students.
“How do we address inequality as a whole?” Johnson-Hostler said.
Results of the meeting will be presented at a regularly scheduled school board meeting at 5:30 p.m. March 21 at Wake County Public Schools central office, 5625 Dillard Drive, Cary.
The two incidents are a symptom of larger problems within the system, Johnson-Hostler said. “We are looking at a long-term plan to address racial tensions and inequity as a whole,” she said. “We can keep talking, but that’s not going to rebuild the trust. … We need to be engaged in that conversation to ensure all parent that it’s our goal.”
Gerald Givens, vice president of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP chapter, said the organization wants to present a united front with the schools in dealing with racial issues.
“We want to help create a loud and clear message,” Givens said.