#IAmAkua: Racism complaint filed against Davidson County Schools, rally planned next month

#IAmAkua: Racism complaint filed against Davidson County Schools, rally planned next month
April 14
09:44 2022

 When D’Shean Smith moved near the Forsyth-Davidson County line before the start of the 2021-2022 school year, she was worried about enrolling her daughter in the Davidson County School System.

“We basically live right on the county line but it’s in the Davison County School District. I moved to give my family a better life but I had concerns about changing districts, but I wanted to do things the right way,” Smith said.

Doing things the right way has turned into a nightmare for Smith and her daughter, who attends Oak Grove High School. “I should‘ve just not changed my address and took her to school because this has been a nightmare,” Smith added.

According to a complaint filed by Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Right to Education Project (REP), which focuses on protecting the rights of children in public schools, over the course of three months Smith’s 14-year-old daughter, “Akua” (name used in complaint), has been a victim of racial harassment and discrimination while at school.

The complaint cites several different incidents including one where a group of white students were openly discussing how to pronounce “n*gger” and calling Smith’s daughter, who is Black, the racial slur, while the teacher was out of the classroom. Smith also recalled a separate incident where her daughter’s hair was pulled by a white student. But it was “Akua,” who got in trouble for cursing, while nothing happened to the other student for their role in the incident.

When she took her daughter’s complaints to the administrative staff at Oak Grove and district leaders, Smith said little was done to fix the problem. “Every time I brought it to the principal, he was combative with me and told me that nothing happened … that it’s not geared towards her,” Smith said.

“Basically, he made it seem like it wasn’t important … it wasn’t a big deal because it wasn’t happening.”

The complaint also mentions incidents where “Akua” was detained and put in ISS (In School Suspension) for minor infractions, and included specific dates where “Akua” believes she was the victim of racial discrimination.

As a result of what she has endured, Smith said her daughter’s pre-existing challenges dealing with anxiety and depression have increased and she is now finishing the school year virtually.

“It got to a point where it was like us against them and she didn’t want to go to school and I was determined to do what I had to do to get her out of that school,” Smith continued. “She really hasn’t been herself since this happened … she’s tried, but it’s just a lot to deal with mentally.”

This isn’t the first time a school in the Davidson County School District has been called out for racism and discrimination, and that was one of the main reasons Smith had concerns about the district to begin with. In 2019, South Davidson High School made national news when “Kill N*ggers” was painted on the school’s spirit rock and countless other horror stories have been passed around through word of mouth over the years.

In a press release issued on March 22, Crystal S. Ingram, staff attorney for the Right to Education Project, said when administrators don’t take complaints like this seriously, essentially they’re promoting a cycle of racism and discrimination.

To restore justice in the matter, the Rights to Education Project is seeking a comprehensive investigation by the Office for Civil Rights of all the incidents documented in the complaint, appropriate and timely discipline of all DCS administrators, faculty and staff members who violated the student’s rights, and DCS policies, and payments of costs associated with therapeutic counseling and transferring to another school district.

“Students’ reports of racial discrimination must be taken seriously and investigated. When school leaders fail to properly investigate the reports of Black students, they thereby fail to effectively address and eliminate racism in schools. This results in maintaining a hostile and toxic school environment created by the misconduct of white students and teachers at the expense of the mental well-being of Black students.”

To show “Akua” that the community is behind her, Hope Dealers, a local nonprofit organization, is hosting the “Stand With Akua Rally for Racial Justice” on May 2 at Stoner-Thomas School in Lexington. Smith said she wants the rally to be an opportunity for every family who has experienced discrimination to come together and demand change. 

“I know my daughter isn’t the only one; I know it’s probably just been swept under the rug and they think they just have to tolerate it. But I want to stand up for not only my family, but other families who have gone through it. 

“My baby is supposed to feel safe when she goes to school … it’s 2022. She should not have to go to school under those conditions where she doesn’t feel safe.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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