ACLU of North Carolina Expresses Deep Concerns Over Racially Segregated Assemblies at Dillard Drive Middle School

December 5, 2007 12:00 am

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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) today expressed deep concerns over the segregation of students of color who were pulled out of seventh grade classes at Dillard Drive Middle School yesterday afternoon for lectures on zero tolerance, gangs, and school rules. White students were not removed from their classrooms or subjected to these lectures.

The ACLU-NC is looking into early reports that Dillard Drive Middle School Principal Teresa Abron pulled all African-American and Hispanic students from seventh grade classes following an altercation yesterday morning between an African-American student and a Hispanic student, in which some of the students’ friends also became involved in an argument. Reportedly, teachers were directed to send all African-American seventh graders to the auditorium at 1:55 p.m. for an assembly on gangs, the school’s zero tolerance policies and the importance of following school rules. Teachers were further instructed that once the African-American students returned to class, they should then dismiss all Hispanic seventh graders to the auditorium for a similar assembly.

The following statement may be attributed to Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina:

“Principal Abron is to be commended for attempting to respond to the specific altercation that occurred and for attempting to promote non-violence in Dillard Drive Middle School. Unfortunately, her methods of addressing these issues will only further divide students based on race or ethnicity and exacerbate the problems in her school. Moreover, schools have an obligation to treat all students equally, regardless of race or ethnicity, and the segregated assemblies yesterday afternoon clearly violated that principle of race neutrality.

“Rather than addressing only the specific students involved in the altercation, Principal Abron felt it necessary to disseminate a broader message. That would be fine if her determination of which students should be addressed had not been based solely on the students’ race or ethnicity. By removing only the students of color from the learning environment and subjecting them to this lecture, Principal Abron unwittingly perpetuated the stereotype that students of color are “problem students” who must be dealt with, while white students do not need to attend the assembly because white students are less likely to get into trouble.

“If there are racial tensions at Dillard Drive Middle School, all students are affected by what happens in that school, not just the students of color. A more constructive way to address this problem would have been to have an assembly for the entire seventh grade or even the entire school during which positive messages about the importance of respecting fellow classmates regardless of race or ethnicity and promoting tolerance for diversity would be conveyed, as well as the importance of following school rules. These are messages that should apply equally to all students, but the way the principal handled this matter sends exactly the opposite message and further stigmatizes students of color. There must have been many students pulled out of the classroom who had nothing to do with the fight and probably didn’ t even know a fight had taken place. There is no reason to remove these innocent students from the classroom but not the white students who also had nothing to do with this particular fight. The principal’s actions, while well intended, seem to be based on some erroneous racial assumptions.

“If our school officials want to promote tolerance for diversity, school unity, and a harmonious learning environment in which people are judged based on their own actions and not by their race or ethnicity, then the school officials need to be setting an example by making sure that they themselves are treating all students equally regardless of race or ethnicity.”

The ACLU-NC recently launched a Racial Justice Project dedicated to fighting racial profiling, race discrimination and other issues related to racial or ethnic stereotyping in North Carolina. The ACLU-NC is looking into the matter and will urge officials with the Wake County School District to ensure that all students in our public schools will be treated equally regardless of race or ethnicity in the future.

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