Some black students at an Arkansas high school were called Wednesday morning to an anti-gang assembly — which officials say was called to comply with a court order to desegregate.
Black freshman students at Maumelle High School were told by an intercom announcement to attend the presentation by a local pastor Dante Shelton, who shared his personal story experience with gang violence and drugs, reported KATV-TV.
Parents and students questioned why the event was aimed only at black students.
“When I talked to (my sister) about it, she felt that it was very racist,” said Arron Perkins. “Someone in the group asked, why are there no other kids except for African-American kids here?”
The ACLU wants to know that, as well, reminding the school in a letter that it was obligated to extend equal protection under the law to all students.
But officials insist the “inspirational” blacks-only assembly was intended to comply with a court order to desegregate Pulaski County Special School District.
“Freshmen students were identified by the school because it is a time of transition when they are more easily influenced,” said Deborah Roush, a spokeswoman for the school district. “Black students were selected with the intent that the assembly would be an extension of the district’s court-ordered desegregation efforts, which encourage programs and opportunities tailored to minority students.”
School officials said students were permitted to opt out if they wished, but they did not say how many chose to skip the assembly — which they insisted was met by a positive response.
Perkins, who said his sister was called out of math class to attend, said the information provided at the assembly should have been shared with all students.
He said singling students out by race presented other problems — because many students come from a multiracial background.
“What does that leave kids that are mixed?” said Perkins, who is biracial. “‘Oh, you know, that’s my other side that’s calling, let me go learn about gang-banging.’ To me it’s just wrong on every level.”
Watch this video report posted online by KATV-TV: