Community Coalition Addresses Traumatic Racial Bullying Incidents in Chatham County Schools
Pittsboro, NC – March 13, 2022
Who We Are
We are a growing coalition of concerned parents, citizens, faith leaders, and organizations in Chatham County organizing to address the race-based bullying, stereotyping, disrespect, abuse, and traumatic harm that black students have been experiencing in Chatham County schools.
On Monday, March 14, 2022, at 4:45 pm, we will hold a press conference at Pittsboro Presbyterian Church (95 East Street, Pittsboro, NC 27312). Immediately following the press conference, we will present our concerns to the Chatham County School Board of Education at their scheduled meeting at 5:30 pm at the Chatham Historic Courthouse in downtown Pittsboro.
Why We Are Here
Our coalition heard the testimony of a mother whose bi-racial son, an eighth-grader, was racially bullied and abused by his white classmates at J.S. Waters school. We learned what this young man experienced was the latest of many experiences that span generations; during our meeting and immediately afterward, multiple families and former students recalled racialized bullying, microaggressions, terror, and trauma experienced in Chatham County schools. As a result, black students and their families have very different school experiences from white students.
At J.S Waters school, white students felt safe enough to commit blatantly racist acts on school property, in the presence of staff and faculty, and while being filmed. These students were emboldened to not only commit brazen and overt acts of racism but to retaliate further and continue their aggression after serving a perfunctory one-day suspension. The initial tepid response by the school’s administrators to these traumatizing incidents is problematic. An intense examination and redress of the cultural, structural, and institutional informants creating these environments are essential.
What We Want
The mission statement of Chatham County Schools is to “graduate globally competitive and confident students by providing a rigorous and relevant curriculum in a supportive, safe and nurturing learning environment.” Unfortunately, this is not happening for all of our students. This coalition believes we are at a pivotal moment in our district to denounce racism and white supremacy by implementing policies, procedures, and consequences in our school system that support safe and just learning environments. We will make the following initial recommendations to the Chatham County School Board members and school administrators:
Collaborate closely with community equity partners, parents of color, and this coalition for community-led approaches to an equitable school system.
The students involved need to apologize to their discrimination targets and the school community.
Child trauma counselors skilled in racial trauma should be available to support all students impacted.
Review and revise the Chatham County Code of Conduct to designate racist and discriminatory remarks as hate speech separate from the current bullying policy with corresponding consequences that match the severity of this abuse our children face.
Review and revise the Chatham County Schools Personnel Guidelines to make racist remarks and behaviors a fireable offense for teachers and staff. Racist educators have no place in the classroom.
Review the administration's response to this and previous racist incidents at the school to determine the appropriateness of their responses. Consequences have to be sufficient to deter future acts.
Provide protocol for reporting hate crimes to Federal Authorities when the level of behavior warrants.
With the guidance of racial equity consultants, develop a harm protocol when racist acts occur to be available and accessible to every school.
We all agree that our students should not be subject to racial abuse and stereotyping by their classmates or the adults entrusted to teach and support them. However, until Chatham County Schools implements these community-driven recommendations, our community will continue to see no dedicated commitment to dismantling the culture of racism in our schools. By adopting these recommendations, Chatham County Schools will send a clear message that no forms of racism are tolerated in our schools.
How many generations of black students will continue to be racially traumatized in our schools? We say no more. With strong leadership, clear goals, and accountability, this coalition believes the Chatham County School District can ensure its mission, a safe and nurturing learning environment for all students, not predicted by race.
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