School Apologizes For Letter Singling Out Black Students


A Florida elementary school raised some eyebrows when it sent a letter home to parents that singled out one particular group of students for disciplinary issues.

Officials at Northwest Elementary School in St. Petersburg, Florida, sent a flier out to parents on March 7 inviting them to attend a meeting about school discipline, ABC Action News reported. The meeting will reportedly take place at 6 p.m. on March 16.

The flier contained this paragraph:

Northwest parents, we need your help. Northwest is forming a parent/staff focus group. Why? Our behavior data is showing our black students are getting the majority of the referrals at school! We need your help in generating ideas and giving suggestions on how we can improve our interactions with our black students to help them be more successful in school.

Some parents who received the letter expressed discomfort at the way it was worded and its focus on one particular group.

"Maybe someone should have looked over the letter before it went out, to make sure it wasn't politically incorrect, and basically stereotyping a race within the school," Cheri Cummings, the mother of a third grader at the school, told ABC Action News.

"Maybe send out the letter showing the different races, the behavior issues and say we're having an issue," Cummings suggested.

According to data obtained by ABC Action News, a total of 144 disciplinary referrals were made in the Pinellas County school district, which includes Northwest Elementary School, in the 2015-16 school year. Of these, 61.1 percent of the referrals were for African-American students, 37.5 percent were for Caucasian students, and 1.4 percent were for Hispanic students.

A spokesperson for Pinellas County Schools said the letter that was sent out to parents was not approved by the district.

District officials have released this statement apologizing for the letter:

Northwest Elementary had a desire to carry out a district-wide training on discipline disparities at the school level. As a result, a community meeting was organized between the school and selected parents to better understand the issue and discuss proactive solutions. Unfortunately, insensitive language was used on the flyer. The flyer was not approved by the district. Pinellas County Schools is committed to respectful and caring relationships, as well as cultural competence. We have worked with Northwest Elementary and will improve the process for communicating with families.

The district has reportedly been collaborating with community leaders to address racial disparities in classroom discipline since February 2016.

According to demographic data published on the district's website, the student population of Pinellas County Schools is 56.6 percent Caucasian, 18.6 percent African-American, and 15.8 percent Hispanic.

Sources: ABC Action News, Pinellas County Schools / Photo credit: ABC Action News

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