CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- A senior at Fleming Island High School awaits a decision by the school board as to whether or not he will be expelled just before graduation after he posted a racist Craigslist advertisement calling two female classmates "slaves".
That incident has shone a light on a bigger issue being reported throughout the Clay County School District.
Parents and students tell First Coast News there is ongoing racial tension and even bullying throughout the district.
Yunetta Pope's daughter was one of the victim's in that racist Craigslist post, which has since been taken down. She says she wants the school to be transparent about how they are handling these kind of situations.
"I know of some incidents that have happened that the students have been upset," said Pope about previous incidents. She said racial tension is nothing new.
"We realized some of these things were handled quietly," said Pope.
According to Kendalyn Green, a friend of Pope's and fellow parent, the issue appears to be district-wide.
"My son attended another Clay County School and I know they had incidents but what I have always been comforted in is this is not a county where prior administrations have taken this and condoned this," said Green.
Not condoning it is exactly the message Clay County Superintendent Addison Davis sent when he recommended to the board that the latest incident result in an expulsion. He sat down with First Coast News to discuss further actions being taken.
"In this student’s mindset they thought it was a joke, and it’s not a joke, it’s disheartening," said Davis. "For any of our students to be subjected to discrimination and not value and celebrate diversity, it’s unfortunate."
So they are doing something about it, by hosting focus groups with students and staff to gain perspective and learn how they can fix the issue. This is how those groups are being broken down according to the school district:
7 student groups: (8 to 10 in each group)
- 9th and 10th graders, African American
- 11th and 12th graders, African American
- 9th and 10th graders, Hispanic
- 11th and 12th graders, Hispanic
- 9th and 10th graders, Caucasian
- 11th and 12th graders, Caucasian
- All grades, Asian
2 staff/faculty groups: (10 in each group)
- Each group is multicultural
Davis said he’s trying to be proactive. He hopes to partner with the Dolores Barr Weaver Policy Center which empowers young women. He is till looking for a partnership to work with the young men in his school.
As for bullying specifically, he is looking into the popular and controversial Netflix series "Th1rteen R3ason Why" that discusses bullying and suicide in high school.
"We’re going to have staff that’s going to watch it because we have to be able to better connect with kids and if kids are watching this type of information we need to be relevant with them," said Davis.
Fleming Island High School Principal Thomas Pittman, who also plans on watching the series, has been sitting in on some of the focus groups to gain perspective from students.
"They say people don’t understand cultures different from theirs," said Pittman. "With social media they don’t actually have to face people, they think it’s easier to say something behind the walls of their own home or phone."
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