Charter school under fire for teacher’s comments
Published 11:55 pm Wednesday, October 6, 2021
By Tom Foreman Jr.
WINSTON-SALEM — A teacher has resigned from a North Carolina charter school after telling Black students in her class that if not for the Constitution, they would be her “field slaves,” a comment that one parent said brought attention to other racist incidents at the school.
Winterville Charter Academy sent a memo which also referred to “racially insensitive words” being used by children in the class without any action from the teacher. That teacher, according to the memo from principal Annastasia Ryan, “was supported in turning in her resignation and will not be returning on campus,” WITN-TV reported.
“The school leadership team acted immediately upon learning about a racially insensitive lesson and student remarks, and is currently working to address ongoing concerns from parents that racially insensitive student remarks continue,” said Colleen Cullison, spokesperson for National Heritage Academies, the parent company for the school.
Cullison said that while privacy rules prevent her from discussing details, “we will not tolerate racism in our school community and will continue taking swift action that addresses these issues.”
Kanisha Tillman, who has an eighth-grader at the school, said a parent sent her a text message on Sept. 20 suggesting a particular teacher treated Black and white students differently at the school. Her son later that day described one such incident.
“A white student had called a Black student a monkey,” Tillman told The Associated Press, as she relayed her son’s account. “When the Black student educated him on that being racist and him not liking it and not to call him that and asked the teacher for support, the teacher turned around and said to him, ‘Oh, it’s OK. We’re all a little bit racist.'”
The Black student then called the white student a “cracker,” to which the teacher responded with a threat to write up the Black student for disciplinary action, Tillman said. That incident and several others were recounted on a private Facebook page devoted to the school’s parents.
In September, the teacher asked Black students in her class to raise their hands. That’s when she then told the students that they would be her “field slaves,” were it not for the Constitution, parents alleged.
In another instance detailed on the Facebook page, Tillman said, a group of Black girls was trying to explain how being called a monkey is racist when a teacher walked up to them and said, “It’s OK, You’re all my little monkeys.”
Children complained about the racist references, but no action was taken, Tillman said. Later, the school sent an email saying it would look into the complaints. The teacher turned in her resignation, but the white student who made the comment to the Black student returned after a two-day suspension, according to Tillman.
Parents had a previously scheduled meeting with Ryan at the school on Wednesday, but Tillman said when she and other parents arrived at the school, the doors were locked and the school said the meeting was canceled. She said the racial incidents weren’t the reason for the meeting, but they were sure to be part of the conversation.
“I don’t believe the school had no idea before Sept. 20,” Tillman said. “I believe that the school was aware of it and they decided just to keep brushing it off.”
The school’s website says Winterville Charter Academy teaches 661 children in kindergarten through eighth grade. It opened in 2015 and is approximately 5 miles from downtown Greenville.