‘Slave auction’ held at NC K-8 school, mom reports; district offers vague response  

Some Black students at J.S. Waters School in Goldston were reportedly "sold" by classmates at a mock “slave auction."

A North Carolina school district is offering a vague response to reports that some Black students at J.S. Waters School, a K-8 campus in Goldston, were “sold” by classmates at a mock “slave auction.”

The Charlotte News & Observer reports that the superintendent of Chatham County schools sent a letter to families last week about unacceptable “recent incidents involving students using racially insensitive language and offensive imagery.” The missive didn’t say where or when they had occurred.

A North Carolina school district is offering a vague response to reports that some Black students at J.S. Waters School, a K-8 campus in Goldston, were “sold” by classmates at a mock “slave auction.” (Photo: Screenshot/ABC 11)

“As a school system and community, we cannot be silent in the face of incidents and behavior that create an unsafe or uncomfortable environment for students in our schools,” Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson wrote in the letter, dated March 8. “The core values espoused by this school system compel us to recognize and to interrupt any issues that demean or disrespect anyone on the basis of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.” 

Days before, one mother shared on Facebook that her “son experienced a slave auction by his classmates and when he opened up we were made aware that this type of stuff seems to be the norm so much that he didn’t think it was worth sharing.” The mother, Ashley Palmer, wrote in the Facebook post on March 4 that her son shared that “His friend ‘went for $350’ and another student was the Slavemaster because he ‘knew how to handle them.’”

Her son attends J.S. Waters School, which is located about 50 miles southwest of Raleigh. The school is 68% white, 12% Black and 12% Hispanic, according to the News & Observer report, which pulled the demographic data. 

“We even have a video of students harmonizing the N-word,” shared Palmer. “Since when were children so blatantly racist?”

Palmer told ABC 11 that the incident occurred on the baseball field and that her 14-year-old son plays on the team. She said that when she told administrators, the students involved were suspended for one day. When they returned, Palmer said, one of the students hit her son with a baseball several times claiming that it was an accident. She again expressed her dismay on Facebook.

“It’s a shame my child isn’t safe at school,” Palmer wrote in an update last Monday. “Where is the staff when this is happening? Now when my son gets fed up, will they protect him the way they have protected this other child?”

While thanking people in the comments of the post, Palmer added that the incident is a “reality of Black Americans daily and not special or specific to my children in our community.”

Palmer contended that her son is “stronger than ever,” adding that “we will continue to do our part to make sure every racist child and faculty member is reported for every blatant act and [microaggression] he experiences!”

The district says it is reviewing the incident and providing additional resources, as well as encouraging students to report racist or demeaning treatment at school. Palmer noted that the severity of the incident prompted a district response and added, “hopefully we will see some real change and action taken.”

However, in a local report from WRAL, other students and families said that they have experienced racism in the district, and the station had reportedly received numerous responses from viewers who wanted to share similar experiences. 

In a comment on her original post, Palmer shared Sunday that she and other parents will be holding a press conference later today and attending a school board meeting in Pittsboro this evening with the support of a group called Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity. 

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