Concern over African-American only student assembly
Shortly after arriving at school Wednesday morning, an announcement over the public announcement system instructed black freshmen to go to the auditorium for an assembly. Arron Perkins says his sister was in math class.
"When I talked to her about it, she felt that it was very racist. Someone in the group asked, why are there no other kids except for African-American kids here," said Perkins.
Local youth pastor Dante Shelton spoke to the students about gang violence and his personal story. According to the Pulaski County Special School District it is part of "the district's court-ordered desegregation efforts which encourage programs and opportunities tailored to minority students."
The ACLU sent an email to the school in search of more information and questioning the assembly as a possible violation of student rights.
"What does that leave kids that are mixed? '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," said Perkins who is biracial.
Perkins said segregating black students as part of a desegregation program is ironic and he questioned to court-ordered efforts as possibly outdated.
"This is 2016. All kids should understand and listen to what this reverend had to talk about which was probably all great information, but to only single out the black kids because they're black," said Perkins.
PCSSD said the program feedback was overwhelmingly positive and released the following statement:
"Yesterday, at an assembly during activities period at Maumelle High School, local pastor Dante Shelton was invited to speak to a group of African-American, ninth-grade students. He shared his personal success story and encouraged students to make good choices. Freshmen students were identified by the school because it is a time of transition when they are more easily influenced. 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. Students who did not want to attend the program were not required to do so, and the response to Mr. Shelton's presentation was overwhelmingly positive. The Pulaski County Special School District regrets that this inspirational program was not made available to all students and in the future will work to ensure that when outside speakers are brought into a school that all students are included."
The school district informed KATV that programs like this happen all over the school district and are geared toward black students as a result of that desegregation order.