An African-American-only student assembly at an Arkansas school sparked controversy Feb. 24.
At the assembly, youth pastor Dante Shelton talked about gang violence and his personal experiences to black high school freshmen at Maumelle High School, KATV reports.
The Pulaski County Special School District said the assembly was a part of "the district's court-ordered desegregation efforts which encourage programs and opportunities tailored to minority students."
“Freshmen students were identified by the school because it is a time of transition when they are more easily influenced,” the district further explained, adding that the response to the the pastor’s talk was “overwhelmingly positive.”
However, some felt the assembly was encouraging racism.
"This is 2016. All kids should understand and listen to what this reverend had to talk about which was probably all great information, but to only single out the black kids because they're black," said biracial Arron Perkins.
Perkins said he spoke to his sister, a student at the school, who felt it was “very racist.”
"Someone in the group asked, why are there no other kids except for African-American kids here," he said
"What does that leave kids that are mixed? 'Oh, you know, that's my other side that's calling, let me go learn about gang-banging.' To me it's just wrong on every level," he added.
Meanwhile, the ACLU wrote a letter to the school directly to investigate the situation.
In the letter, the ACLU argued singling black students out for a lecture on gangs and drugs as the school did perpetuates harmful stereotypes.
“Separating students by race for a school assembly raises grave concerns for the equal protection rights of the students present,” they wrote, adding, “We wish to hear from district officials or counsel for the district that this will not happen again and what remedial action, if any, is planned in light of this assembly.”
The district now says it regrets not making the event available to all.
“The Pulaski County Special School District regrets that this inspirational program was not made available to all students and in the future will work to ensure that when outside speakers are brought into a school that all students are included,” they said.