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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
T. Keung Hui

North Carolina mom says Black students ‘sold’ at school ‘slave auction’; district condemns racism

RALEIGH, N.C. — Some Black students reportedly were “sold” by classmates at a recent “slave auction” at a Chatham County school, prompting the superintendent to send a letter to families condemning “recent unacceptable incidents.”

In a letter sent Tuesday night, Chatham County Superintendent Anthony Jackson told families that the district had “become aware of recent incidents involving students using racially insensitive language and offensive imagery.”

Jackson’s letter doesn’t specifically describe the incidents. But a Chatham County parent who has been in contact with district officials detailed in Facebook posts about the “slave auction” and a video that used the N-word.

“Our son experienced a slave auction by his classmates and when he opened up we were made aware that this type of stuff seems to be the norm so much that he didn’t think it was worth sharing,” Ashley Palmer wrote in a Facebook post Friday. “His friend ‘went for $350’ and another student was the Slavemaster because he ‘knew how to handle them.’

“We even have a video of students harmonizing the N-word. Since when were children so blatantly racist?”

Palmer didn’t immediately respond Wednesday to a request for comment on Facebook from The News & Observer. She also made her Facebook posts private by late Wednesday afternoon.

Palmer posted that the incident took place at J.S. Waters School, a K-8 school in Goldston, located about 50 miles southwest of Raleigh. According to this year’s data, the 195-student school is 68% white, 12% Black, 12% Hispanic and 6% of two or more races.

In a Facebook post Monday, Palmer wrote that students received a one-day suspension for the auction but that no action had been taken yet about the video. She also said in the Monday update that the student who had acted as slavemaster “accidentally” hit her son with a baseball four times upon his return to school.

“It’s a shame my child isn’t safe at school,” Palmer wrote Monday. “Where is the staff when this is happening? Now when my son gets fed up, will they protect him the way they have protected this other child?”

Nancy Wykle, a Chatham County schools spokeswoman, declined to comment Wednesday on Palmer’s accusations and referred back to the district’s letter.

But in a comment Friday to Palmer’s initial post, the district thanked her for alerting the principal and said that they “are taking this very seriously and have taken steps to ensure this won’t happen again.”

“We want to continue to work with you, your son and all of our students to ensure we have an environment that is healthy, supportive and kind,” the district continued in the Facebook comment. “We are here to help you, your son and the rest of your family through this.”

Palmer first made the issue public Friday morning with a Facebook post urging parents to “hug your babies especially the ones that are subject to racism by students and faculty.”

The mother said her child “is a strong unapologetically black young man and I’m so proud of how tactfully he has handled these repulsive situations,” Palmer wrote. “He is stronger than ever and we will continue to do our part to make sure every racist child and faculty member is reported for every blatant act and microagression he experiences!”

In a post on Friday night, Palmer thanked all the people who had expressed support for her and her son. She wrote that what her son experienced “is the reality of Black Americans daily and not special or specific to my children in our community.”

“Racism isn’t always so blatant as the ‘N’ word or holding a mock ‘Slave Auction’ organized by students,” Palmer wrote. “It’s the subtle comments like ‘You are so articulate’ or ‘I don’t think of you as a black person,’ or assuming the black person is support staff, or touching a Black woman’s hair without permission.”

In his Tuesday night letter, Superintendent Jackson told families that these incidents were unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the district. He said the incidents create an unsafe or uncomfortable environment for students.

Jackson went on to declare that “racist, homophobic or otherwise hateful behavior or speech has no place in the Chatham County School System.” He told families that “those who are acting outside of our expectations will be held accountable.”

Parents and the district “must commit to dismantling racism and other negative influences that affect our school community,” according to Jackson.

The superintendent added that the district is reviewing its resources for encouraging students to speak up if they’re the target or witness behavior that is hurtful, racist and demeaning.

“The truth is, if children master academics but fail to appreciate the value of inclusivity, respect and diversity, we as adults have fallen short of preparing them for tomorrow,” Jackson wrote.


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