Superintendent responds to allegations of racism at Chesterfield - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Superintendent responds to allegations of racism at Chesterfield schools

A photo on social media shows a Confederate flag at a Chesterfield school. A photo on social media shows a Confederate flag at a Chesterfield school.
CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) -

Superintendent Dr. James Lane is speaking out after allegations of racism and political intimidation at two high schools in Chesterfield.

Earlier this week, viewers reached out to 12 On Your Side claiming racial tensions at Cosby and Midlothian High are leaving many students feeling threatened. One school even sent a letter home to parents.

It's supposed to be an exciting week at Cosby and Midlothian High - both gearing up for their big homecoming game this weekend. Two separate situations at the schools find some saying this is anything but exciting.

This group text message made its way to social media:

"Apparently the [racial slur] are wearing Black to protest America Day tomorrow."

"Let's all wear Trump shirts. Make America Great Again hats."

"I'm wearing so much America [expletive]. Someone have an extra Trump shirt?"

"It hurts. It really hurts,” said Sonia Smith of Chesterfield's Education Association.

She heard from multiple parents saying their children viewed it as an offensive threat.

"There's a responsibility with everything that we say, even when there is free speech," she said.

NBC12 got ahold of a letter Midlothian High’s principal sent home as a result.

"We must work together to teach our students to respect one another…The conversations that have occurred in our community are not okay or acceptable,” it says.

At the same time, another incident was unfolding at Cosby High.

A viewer wrote NBC12: "Many students wore Trump gear and Confederate flags. Students said things like ‘the south will rise again’ and told some of the African-American students to keep looking when they saw the Confederate flag."

School spokesperson Shawn Smith confirmed one student voluntarily put away the Confederate flag when school administrators noticed it.

"We want every single one of our students to feel safe and welcome in our schools,” said Superintendent James Lane.

He chimed in at this week’s School Board meeting.

"I certainly have no tolerance for students who engage in language that's inappropriate racially, and we're certainly not going to tolerate it,” Dr. Lane said.

"Never in my wildest dreams could I ever imagine that I would have to have this type of discussion about this type of language pointed directly at one particular community in 2017," Sonia Smith added.

As for the incident at Midlothian, the principal says he's reminded students there are consequences for “actions that create a disruptive or hostile learning environment.” No word what if any disciplinary action was taken.

Letter from Midlothian High School Principal Shawn Abel:

Greetings Midlothian Community, this is your principal, Shawn Abel, with a special message. 

I know you are accustomed to hearing my weekly message at this time on Tuesdays. However, I'm going to delay that message one day in order to acknowledge an important discussion occurring in our community. Our goal at Midlothian High is to create a safe, supportive and nurturing learning environment for every student, every day. Students should feel safe and supported for the 6.5 hours they are with us each day.

To help us in that regard:

•    We must work together to teach our students to respect one another
•    We much work together to teach our students they are responsible for being good digital citizens, and remind them of the power that words can have
•    We must also work together to teach our students that they will be held accountable for their actions -- on campus and off campus.

These lessons are being shared again this week. The conversations that have occurred in our community are not okay, nor acceptable. The conversations are not representative of the Midlothian High School that I know, and I hope they are not representative of the Midlothian High School for which you know. 

Conversations that originated off-campus this past weekend have been addressed. As we have reminded students, there are consequences for actions that create a disruptive or hostile learning environment. 

It is my hope that moving forward, we will be one school, one student body. I appreciate your continued support of our work to prepare students for success after they leave our school. The future vitality of our community is dependent on our success. I hope that you will invest in our Community of Excellence and support us as we move forward as one. 

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