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A St. Petersburg, Florida, principal has come under fire for telling her staff at a predominately African-American school to place white and Black students in separate classrooms.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Christine Hoffman sent an email giving detailed instructions for deciding classroom rosters at Campbell Park Elementary School, including a requirement that “white students should be in the same class.” She also suggested that “students with a mix of reading levels, an equal number of boys and girls, no more than two students who frequently misbehave per class,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Someone then forwarded Hoffman’s email to the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP.
“I’m not usually at a loss for words, but I can tell you when I saw that email for the first time, I thought it was a joke,” the branch’s president Maria Scruggs told the Bay Times.
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When parents found out about the email they demanded to know the reasoning behind such an invasive and archaic request. Hoffman’s response? She wanted students, presumably the white students who account for less than 10 percent of the school’s population, to feel more comfortable.
The Pinellas County School District spokeswoman Lisa Wolf said Hoffman’s supervisor, Patricia Wright, is developing a corrective action plan and stressed that “not the district’s practice to assign classes by race.”
She is currently faces disciplinary charges for potentially violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits schools from segregating students “on the basis of race, color, or national origin in making classroom assignments.”
In lieu of the controversy, Hoffman tried to apologize for her behavior: “As a white woman leading a predominantly black school. I am approaching this as an opportunity to learn.”
However as the Bay Times points out, this is not the first school Hoffman has overseen with majority Black population.
In addition, Hoffman requested a transfer off the Campbell Park Elementary School campus in St. Petersburg on Monday while district officials review her tenure. She said her actions “are a distraction to the school and learning atmosphere.”
But parents are not here for a transfer; they want her to resign from teaching.
The Pinellas County School District seems to have a poor history with race relations.
According to the Bay Times, they are currently in mediation on separate federal and state lawsuits, both claiming that the district discriminates against Black students. In addition, there are least two investigations by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, looking into whether the local schools have disproportionately disciplined Black students and refused them equal access to teachers, curriculum and other resources.