A North Carolina schools superintendent has apologized for a mock “slave auction” in which white middle-schoolers pretended to sell their Black classmates.
“Actions such as these, they just do not reflect who we are as a school system,” Chatham County Schools Superintendent Anthony Jackson said after parents raised an outcry. “And I say, unapologetically, will not be tolerated in the school system.”
The school board adopted some policy changes and will also review the student code of conduct and discipline policies involving acts of racism, Jackson said. Some parents complained that several students involved were given just a one-day suspension.
A coalition of local groups called on the board Monday to address the situation at the J.S. Waters School in Goldston and require the instigators to apologize, news outlets reported.
The mock auction happened in the presence of staff and faculty and was recorded on video, according to a Chatham Organizing For Racial Equity press release. The K-8 school about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Raleigh has 195 students, and 68 percent are white.
“These students were emboldened to not only commit brazen and overt acts of racism but to retaliate further and continue their aggression after serving a perfunctory one-day suspension,” the coalition said.
The coalition also wants the district to raise the penalties for school employees who engage in racist behaviors, including making it a fireable offense.
Christy Wagner made an emotional plea to the board, saying she learned what happened on the baseball field from another parent and had to explain to her biracial son why he shouldn’t have to suffer such racism in silence.
“The reality is these acts of racism are not only happening here in Chatham County but across North Carolina and across the country,” said Wagner. “More should be done around addressing racism in schools, because no parent should have to stand here after hearing their son was sold in a slave trade at school.”
The school board unanimously approved Jackson’s proposed policy changes and regulations as part of a comprehensive plan for accountability for racist incidents in schools, support services for students and training for staff.
Jackson directed the board to authorize a list of new regulations, to direct staff to “begin a full top-to-bottom review of our student code of conduct” and to authorize a district-wide training protocol, including establishing channels of communication with parents and local community organizations.