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A teacher and principal at an elementary school in Florida have been placed on paid administrative leave after parents learned that the school held an assembly about low test scores for black students only.
On August 18, Bunnell Elementary School in Flagler County, Florida, held two separate presentations about low test scores, one for black fourth-graders and one for black fifth-graders. Flagler County School Board Chair Cheryl Massaro admitted that the presentation was intended for "African-American students that scored below a three on testing," but Flagler Schools coordinator of communications Jason Wheeler later confirmed that only black students attended, regardless of their test scores.
At the assembly, school officials attempted to encourage students to participate actively in school so as to improve their performance on tests. To up the stakes, they even challenged students to compete against one another in math and English and language arts, promising that the winners of the competition would then receive a free meal from McDonald's.
The presenters also reportedly warned students that those who perform poorly in school and do not go to college often end up in jail or shot. Despite the dire warning about the possible consequences of poor academic performance, the PowerPoint shown to students was rife was grammatical errors. "AA have underperform on standardized assessment for the last past 3 years," one line read. Many have speculated that "AA" stands for "African Americans," though the district has not clarified the meaning of the acronym.
In any case, some of the students who attended the presentation insisted that they have not "underperform[ed]." One girl, who claimed to be an A and B student, told the Daytona Beach News-Journal: "I don’t think they pulled us in for our test scores. I think they pulled us in for our race and because they just wanted to congratulate all the other students and not us. Our test scores were really good, but they made it look like our test scores were not good at all and other students tested higher."
The girl's mother, Jacinda Arrington, seemed to agree. Though Arrington said she appreciated the apologies she and others have received from the school and school district, she remains outraged. "I feel like justice is needed to be served in this situation," she said, "because at the end of the day, they segregated our 8- to 12-year-olds in 2023, and that’s a despicable action for me."
Bunnell principal, teacher on leave after controversial assemblywww.youtube.com
School district officials have since issued a series of apologies. "The district does not, does not support in any way the activity that took place at Bunnell Elementary School," Massaro said at a press conference last Thursday. "To the parents and students affected by these actions of the Flagler County community, we make no excuses but extend our apology, all of our apology."
Interim Superintendent LaShakia Moore added, "We make no excuses for what happened. We offer our apologies." Moore also stated that the district was continuing to investigate the incident and that district representatives would host a forum on Tuesday featuring members of the NAACP, the African American Mentoring program, and other groups to discuss improving academic performance for all students.
Brunnell Elementary Principal Donelle Evensen and teacher Anthony Hines, one of at least two teachers who reportedly led the presentation, have been placed on paid leave. Evensen was just promoted from assistant principal to principal a few weeks ago. She was named the district's assistant principal of the year for 2022-23.
On August 22, interim Superintendent Moore issued a statement that said in part, "In speaking with Mrs. Evensen, it is clear there was no malice intended in planning this student outreach. However, sometimes, when you try to think 'outside the box,' you forget why the box is there." After public outcry about segregation, Moore later released a video statement during which she reportedly said, "Students should never be separated by race."
Assistant Principal Cari McGee has since been placed in charge of the school.
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Sr. Editor, News
Cortney Weil is a senior editor for Blaze News.