Officials at an Arkansas high school “regret” holding an assembly about gang violence and drugs, and inviting only black students, the Washington Times is reporting.
Maumelle High School, in the northern suburbs of Little Rock, held the controversial assembly on Wednesday morning. A local youth pastor, Dante Shelton, spoke to the assembled kids — all African-American freshmen — about his life story. He spoke of overcoming obstacles, making good choices, and encouraged the young people to avoid the pull of gangs and drugs — mistakes so many young African-American kids make.
— Bipartisan Report (@Bipartisanism) February 19, 2016
However, the fact that only African-American kids were invited is striking some — including parents, other students, and even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — as something approaching racist.
Student Arron Perkins, who is bi-racial, told Little Rock ABC affiliate KATV that he doesn’t understand why only black kids were invited to the assembly.
“This is 2016. All kids should understand and listen to what this reverend had to talk about which was probably all great information, but to only single out the black kids because they’re black.”
Perkins also pointed out that having an assembly and only inviting black kids leaves bi-racial kids with a difficult decision.
“What does that leave kids that are mixed? ‘Oh, you know, that’s my other side that’s calling, let me go learn about gang-banging.’ To me it’s just wrong on every level.”
The American Civil Liberties Union would like some answers about the assembly. In a letter, which you can see here via Arkansas Times, ACLU attorney Holly Dickson said that having a segregated assembly raises “grave concerns” about the students’ rights potentially being violated.
“If this occurred as reported to us, to be called out in a racially segregated fashion and singled out for a lecture on gangs and drugs violated these students’ rights to equal protection under the law and labels them with harmful stereotypes about students of color.”
Officials at the Pulaski County Special School District don’t see things that way. In a statement, the school said that having the blacks-only assembly was actually intended as part of the school’s de-segregation efforts. Those efforts include, among other things, offering “programs and opportunities tailored to minority students.”
Freshmen students were specifically chosen for the assembly, said the school, because freshman year is a “time of transition when they are more easily influenced.”
The school also noted that attendance at the assembly wasn’t mandatory — although, as Perkins told KATV, he heard an announcement Wednesday morning directing all African-American freshmen to the auditorium. He mentions nothing about being given the option to opt out.
Further, said the school, response to the blacks-only assembly was positive, and the students who attended seemed receptive to the local pastor’s message.
However, the school district says that, in the future, they will make such programs available to all students.
“The Pulaski County Special School District regrets that this inspirational program was not made available to all students and in the future will work to ensure that when outside speakers are brought into a school that all students are included.”
Maumelle High School is not the first school to receive national media attention for singling out black students. In May, 2015, according to this Inquisitr report, Georgia school principal Nancy Gordeuk was caught on video saying “Look who’s leaving — all the black people!” during graduation ceremonies.
Gordeuk was later fired from her job for the remarks.
Do you believe that Maumelle High School did the right thing by inviting only black kids to an assembly about gangs and drugs? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Shutterstock/Michael Chamberlin]