Atlanta Elementary School Under Investigation For Allegedly Separating Classes By Race

Wide angle background image of wooden school desks in a row facing blackboard in an empty classroom
Wide angle background image of wooden school desks in a row facing blackboard in an empty classroom

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is looking into complaints centered around an Atlanta elementary school that allegedly assigned students to classes based on their race, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Black family who filed the complaint also alleges that the school retaliated against them for doing so.

The department will be looking into specific instances determining if Atlanta Public Schools subjected students at the school “to different treatment based on race” at Mary Lin Elementary School.

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In July 2021, parent Kila Posey filed a formal complaint alleging Principal Sharyn Briscoe designated two second-grade classes for Black students without asking for the families’ consent. The complaint stated that white students could be placed in any of the school’s six second-grade classrooms. Only 10% of Mary Lin’s more than 600 students are Black, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes. Posey has two children that attend Mary Lin Elementary School.

The complaint also alleges the assistant principal at the school admitted in a recorded phone conversation in August 2020 that she was aware of the class separation Briscoe created. Head of Atlanta Public Schools’ Office of Communications and Public Engagement Ian Smith stated they looked into the issue and took care of matters.

Posey then filed a second complaint in August 2022 after being fired as an after-school care provider for the district. She feels this was a retaliatory measure taken against her. Then Georgia state education chair of the NAACP, Marilyn Barnett Waters, visited Mary Lin Elementary School to examine Posey’s claims. Waters believes the school staged classrooms for her visit.

From CNN:

“I saw African American students in two of the classes I saw. It almost seemed like they were foreign to that class,” Waters told CNN on Wednesday while recalling her visit. “The Black students weren’t engaged with any of the other kids in the class.”

“The white children seemed to have friends, but the two Black girls were sitting there, and it didn’t seem like they knew each other. They kept watching me as if I was going to say something to them,” she said.

Atlanta Public Schools said Waters’ assertion that the school setting was staged “is totally fictional” in a statement to CNN. The federal agency has not yet said if they will also look into the retaliatory claim.

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