Dept. of Ed investigating possible civil rights violations at Atlanta school

The Black principal at Mary Lin Elementary School allegedly designated “Black classes” in an effort to create and foster a community among Black students.

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One of Atlanta’s highest-performing elementary schools is at the center of a federal investigation in to whether students were assigned to classes based on their race.

The Atlanta Journal-Contrituion recently reported that the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights informed Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Superintendent Lisa Herring that it also intends to look into whether the couple — Kila and Jason Posey who have two children enrolled at the Mary Lin Elementary School — who filed the racial discrimination complaint last July faced retaliation for filing it.

The complaint alleges that the school’s Black principal, Sharyn Briscoe, relegated about 13 Black second-graders to two “Black classes” last year, while white students faced no restrictions and were placed in any of Mary Lin’s six second-grade classes, The AJC reported last year.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint that an Atlanta school assigned students to classes based on their race. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The complaint further alleges that Briscoe designated the classes in an effort to create and foster a community among Black students at the predominantly white school in Candler Park. The Poseys, according to the complaint, were told by school officials that their daughter, who was a second-grader at the time, would be the only Black student in her class because other Black kids were split and placed in different classrooms.

At the time, Kila Posey ran an after-school program at Mary Lin and her husband worked as a psychologist at the school where only about 10% of more than 600 are Black students. In the initial complaint, The AJC recently reported, she stated that her husband was reassigned to work remotely as a form of retaliation. He would go on to accept a job in another district. Kila Posey filed a second complaint, however, alleging retaliation after the APS did not renew her company’s contract to run an after-school program at the Mary Lin school.

Last year, the APS said in a statement that the so-called “Black classes” were inappropriate. “Using race as a method for assigning students to classrooms is unacceptable,” it read.” When the district learned of this allegation, we addressed it and the matter was closed.”

Recently, the APS told the newspaper that it had no comment on the ongoing investigation, issuing a statement that mentions it is following the process. “Given that this matter is pending before a federal administrative agency for consideration, APS has no further comment,” the statement read.

The federal probe will determine whether the APS violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination in schools receiving federal funds.

Kila Posey believes the investigation is the first step in a long process. “I finally felt like, ‘OK, somebody is stepping in to hopefully look at the preponderance of the evidence and give a sound judgement call’,” she said. “Somebody’s coming to check their homework.

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