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Atlanta mom files complaint alleging daughter's grade school segregated Black students

"You can't treat one group of students based on race differently than other groups," said the attorney for the woman who filed the federal complaint.

A woman in Atlanta filed a federal complaint alleging civil rights violations at her daughter's elementary school because it segregated Black students from their classmates.

The woman, Kila Posey, 43, who is Black, said she learned last year that Principal Sharyn Briscoe of Mary Lin Elementary School was separating the school's 12 Black students in the second grade from their classmates.

The topic came up last spring, Posey said, when she was talking with Briscoe — who is also Black — about teachers who would be a good fit for her daughter. Posey said in an interview Wednesday that she asked Briscoe about placing her daughter with a certain teacher and that Briscoe told her "that's not a Black class."

"As a Black parent, what I'm hearing is my kid doesn't have the options of six teachers that may work with her learning style. ... I only get two [teachers]. How is that right? A white parent can get all six."

Mary Lin Elementary School in Atlanta.Google Maps

Posey said Briscoe told her that she separated Black students into the same classes to build a community. Posey said Black second-grade students had access to only two of six teachers.

Posey's attorney, Sharese Shields, said the complaint was filed late last month with the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights. The crux of the complaint is that the principal and the school violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination, exclusion and benefits on the basis of race, color or national origin in programs that receive federal assistance.

"It's a bit shocking that in 2021 that you would have a public school administrator engage in that practice, particularly given that administrator is a Black woman herself," Shields said. "As an administrator, she should be well-versed in the law and know that you can't treat one group of students based on race differently than other groups of students."

Briscoe did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Atlanta Public Schools said in a statement Wednesday that it "does not condone assigning students to classrooms based solely on race."

"When we learned of allegations of this conduct occurring during virtual instruction at Mary Lin Elementary School in August 2020, the district conducted a review and took immediate and appropriate action at that time to resolve the issue," the statement said. It is unclear what actions the school system took.

As part of the complaint, federal officials were sent two audio files that Posey said she recorded in secret. The first was during a conversation with an assistant principal at the school last August, in which the administrator "admitted that she was aware Ms. Briscoe had developed a second-grade class roster based upon, in part, the race of the students," the complaint said.

The second recording occurred in March during an interview with a district administrator who also acknowledged that Briscoe "had indeed designated classes for black students," the complaint said.

In the complaint, Posey writes that she is a 17-year veteran educator who operates a business that provides after-school activities.

Posey's husband is a school psychologist at Mary Lin Elementary School. The couple have two children at the school.

A spokesman for the Education Department did not immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment.

Shields said it is unclear how "long-standing" or "widespread" Briscoe's practice has been. Shields and Posey said they were unsure whether the school has stopped segregating some students by race.

The strategy of designating certain classes for Black students needs to be stopped, and the "entire leadership team" should be removed, the complaint said.

Thinking back about her initial feelings when her daughter's principal told her about Black classes, Posey said it was "mind-blowing."

"That was the summer of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and all the names," she said. "We marched all around the world, and I'm having a conversation with somebody who looks exactly like me about Black classes. That was unbelievable."