Chapel Hill students, parents say racism at heart of teacher removal controversy

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- The controversy began after an explosive report from a Chapel Hill news radio station detailing "turmoil" at East Chapel Hill High School following a parent's request for the removal of at least two teacher's assistants -- because the TAs are Black men. The report sparked outrage from parents, protests from students; and Thursday night, the school board got an earful.

One by one -- East Chapel Hill High students ticked off a number: How many Black teachers they've had while attending Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

"In my 12 years I've only had four Black teachers," one student said.

Another went to the podium to say "I've only had two Black teachers."

A third student told the board, "In my six years, I've had zero."

All of them came to sound off in protest about what they read on The report detailed a request from a parent at East Chapel Hill High's Exceptional Children Department requesting the Black man serving as teacher's assistant in her child's class be removed.

The report said another African-American male teacher was asked to be transferred as well -- but resigned when he was informed by the school.

The incident suggested racial rifts in a school district that holds itself up as a champion of racial equity and diversity.

"Yes, we have value diversity in the classrooms and have a reputation that deters people of color from wanting to work in our district," Diana Jackson, a former CHCCS employee told the school board.

Chapel Hill parent and teacher Lee Moavenzadeh added: "And the toleration of all sorts of blatantly racist attitudes, comments, behaviors on the part of teachers -- I'm just floored,"

"If that is allowed to happen, you're looking at every single child in this room that is not White and telling them that they are less than," Rachel Vargas said at the podium.

Lauren Butler's daughter was one of the dozens of students who protested during school on Monday to call out their school for racism.

"My daughter protested. And that's why I'm here right now. She gave me the courage," Butler told the board. "When do we get to pick and choose when our children are in public school? If you don't like it then you can take your children to private school."

In a statement, the district told ABC11 that parents and students don't have the full story from that news radio report.

"We encourage, respect and appreciate when employees share their concerns and feedback," a CHCCS spokesperson said. "Unfortunately, in this instance, we feel some of the quoted interview statements do not present a fair or entirely accurate picture ... and wrongly mischaracterize the actions of some."

The district goes on to say it can't discuss sensitive student and staff matters. But, it insists that no teaching assistants were reassigned.
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