A Washington elementary school was forced to cancel its segregation plans after the idea received wild backlash and outrage from parents.
According to the New York Post, Centennial Elementary in Olympia began its calendar year with a new “Black, Indigenous, People of Color” student group for fifth-graders. The group would only accept minority students.
“Many of our elementary schools and all of our secondary schools have a similar group to this,” Principal Shannon Ritter wrote in a January email. “We have a 5th grade BIPOC student group that meets weekly during their lunchtime. Our 4th grade BIPOC group is in the early stages and will meet twice a month. At this time, this group is limited to students who identify as BIPOC. For these students, this space allows them to hang out, check-in and possibly talk about their experiences as a student in the minority as they build community, connections, and confidence.”
Ritter wrote in the email that the group is a safe space for minority students and students of color. Ritter admitted that administrators planned to form a separate group for white students who wished to join the BIPOC group.
Ritter’s admission did not sit well with parents and community members after Rep. Jim Walsh (R-WA) posted a screenshot of the email on Facebook. Some of them accused the school of furthering the racial divides it wanted to eliminate.
One community member who wrote under Walsh’s post claimed Ritter was trying hard to justify racism and segregation. Another person described the plan as “ridiculous and a separation of color that should not be allowed.
The backlash forced the school to reverse the BIPOC-only policy. A spokesperson for the school claimed that while the group was important for elevating voices and helping the district design a responsive educational experience that meets the needs of its students, administrators recognized that it can not be exclusionary.
UPDATE: The school district finally responded to defend the unnecessary and divisive club, pretending that 5th graders are leading discussions about racial identity, but admits it can’t racially segregate. They say they will stop.https://t.co/tqaeu0HKRB pic.twitter.com/1da5XJRLIE
— Jason Rantz on KTTH Radio (@jasonrantz) February 7, 2023
“Moving forward, we will ensure that school leadership and staff are specific about the purpose of these groups, while simultaneously removing any exclusions to participation,” the spokesperson said.