BUNNELL, Fla. (WFLA) — The interim superintendent of a Florida elementary school apologized to students, families, and the community Thursday after sparking outrage when she held two school assemblies that singled out Black children.
Last Friday, Black students in the fourth and fifth grades at Bunnell Elementary School in Flagler County were called out for low-performing standardized test scores. Now, interim Superintendent LaShakia Moore is pledging to do better.
“We make no excuses of what happened. We offer our apology,” Moore said.
Although Moore promised change, parents still feel what happened to their children is disheartening.
“It’s disheartening because not for nothing our children were segregated,” Jacinda Arrington told WESH.
During a press conference Thursday, board members with the school district and Moore said they’re taking responsibility for the hurtful incident and are working to ensure things like this never happen again.
“What do we do now? How do we work together as a community which is inclusive of our families? How do we work together in order to ensure that we’re never in this place again?” Moore said.
On Aug. 18, the school held an assembly for students, however, only Black fourth and fifth graders were shown a PowerPoint discussing underperforming test scores, according to WESH.
The news outlet reported that a page in the PowerPoint titled: “(African Americans) have underperformed on standardized assessment for the last three years. Only 32% are at level 3 or higher.”
WESH said the PowerPoint did not take into account Black students who performed average or above average or white students who might’ve performed average or below average.
“Now you’re making our children feel like failures and my nephew said that yesterday, ‘I feel like a failure,’ and my daughter, how does it make you feel? ‘I feel like I am not good enough,’” Arrington said.
On top of the assembly, WESH reported that the presenters allegedly made comments bullying students. The news outlet said the alleged comments were along the lines of, “If you don’t improve, you could end up in jail or the victim of gun violence.”
Those comments are a part of the ongoing investigation.
According to WESH, Principal Donelle Evensen, who signed off on the assemblies and PowerPoint, along with one of the presenters, teacher Anthony Hines, have all been placed on administrative leave. Additional disciplinary action may also occur.
“This shouldn’t have happened, but what are we going to do about it? Let’s work together to ensure that our focus gets back to educating students,” Moore said.
A spokesperson with the Florida Board of Education told WESH they “will work with Flagler County Schools to see if the assemblies violated Florida’s new school code about parental notification since parents were not notified in advance and whether there was any other misconduct.”