Parents banded together to make changes in the district after several reported bullying instances, including a student-organized mock auction of Black students.
In a March 4th Facebook post, Ashely Palmer wrote that her Black son told her some of his classmates were “sold in a mock slave auction,” at J.S Waters School grades K-8.
“Our son experienced a slave auction by his classmates and when he opened up we were made aware that this type of stuff seems to be the norm so much that he didn’t think it was worth sharing,” Palmer wrote. “His friend ‘went for $350’ and another student was the Slavemaster because he ‘knew how to handle them.’”
In a later post, she wrote that the students involved in the auction only received a one-day suspension. Palmer alleges that since her son reported the incident, he has faced “continuous harassment.”
Several students, parents and community members spoke on Monday during a public Chatham County School Board meeting.
A mother, who said her son was sold in the mock auction, told the school board about the heartbreaking conversation she had to have with her child.
“I asked my son why didn’t he tell me? He responded with, ‘Mom it wasn’t a big deal,’” she said.
“I am a mother who just had to explain to my son why being auctioned as a slave is unacceptable,” the mother said. “This moment in my son’s early life has already made him question playing the sport he loves with his friends, and I pray this does not impact him mentally and socially going forward.”
Superintendent Anthony Jackson offered an apology to the families.
“As a father, as an educator, as a grandfather, tonight was very difficult. It’s difficult to sit here and listen and hear and hurt for our children.
Schools are for children, and as partners with parents, we are responsible for helping students realize their full potential. As many people identified tonight, creating safe environments for students is the first promise schools make to families,” Jackson said.
Jackson presented the school board with an action plan for changes in the district policy in how discriminatory situations would be handled, including notifying guardians, investigation, proper discipline, social support and resources for the victims.
“As a newcomer to our school system and to this community, before I offer any plans, I want to do something that needs to be done here publicly. I want to offer an apology. An apology to every single student who has ever felt unsafe while in our care. To every student who has ever felt demeaned, disrespected or marginalized because of their race, ethnicity, sex, gender, religion or disability. In Chatham County Schools, we proudly boast that diversity is our strength and moving forward, it will be our intentional focus to ensure that this celebration includes everyone. Moving forward, my personal commitment to you is that we will do better,” Jackson said in his apology.