During the first week of October, Brooklyn Edwards was in the school gymnasium during her lunch period when she said a classmate took a piece of cotton out of his pocket, tossed it on the ground and told her to pick it.
Brooklyn, 15, described the incident a month later at the Johnston County, North Carolina, school board meeting. She said she’d dealt with racist bullying frequently as a Black student at Princeton Middle/High School, in a majority-white small town southeast of Raleigh. Classmates called her racial slurs, she said, including in front of teachers who failed to react. One classmate suggested she kill herself, so she might be reborn as a white girl, Brooklyn said.
“It’s bad enough we have to deal with racism in the real world. We shouldn’t have to deal with it in school,” she told the school board, pleading with them to investigate racial harassment in the district. “I’m speaking up for the ones that are too scared to speak up for themselves.”
After sharing her experiences at the board meeting, “I felt relieved and glad they finally knew what was going on,” Brooklyn said in a recent interview, “but I had a lot of doubt they were going to do anything.”
Kaiulani Moses, Brooklyn’s mother, said it was disheartening to see the Johnston County school board focused on a different issue this fall: ensuring that critical race theory, an academic concept that examines how racism is perpetuated through policies and institutions, is not taught in schools. She believes that sent the wrong message to students who bullied their classmates and the teachers and administrators tasked with ensuring safety.
“It has made these children and some personnel and administrators at this school feel protected,” Moses said. The district is one of hundreds nationwide where some parents and conservative activists demanded that schools block classroom discussions of “white privilege,” cut back on equity training for teachers and stop hiring diversity consultants. The Johnston County Board of Commissioners promised in June to release $7.9 million in school funding if the district banned critical race theory, which administrators said schools did not teach.
In response, the school board enacted a rule in July barring staff members from doing anything to “create division” in the community. Then, in October, the board passed a policy that limits how teachers can talk about race and requires educators to present historical American figures as “innovators and heroes to our culture.”
“It’s all about politics, and our children are having to pay for it.”
kaiulani moses, Mother in North Carolina
After Brooklyn spoke at the board meeting, she said she continued to receive social media messages from classmates calling her racial slurs. Her mother transferred her to a different school in October.
“I shouldn’t have to relocate my children because they refuse to fix this problem,” Moses said. “It’s all about politics, and our children are having to pay for it.”
Moses said she met with the superintendent this month, after weeks of requesting to speak to him, and he said he would look into the harassment. The super
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