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People of color have 'no voice' in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system, says racial equity group

At a press conference hosted by the Campaign for Racial Equity in our Schools Wednesday, community members addressed the racial inequalities present in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System. 

The press conference started with the release of 85 black balloons to represent the 85 percent of black eighth grade males that failed the End of Grade reading examination.

Mary Carey, a volunteer with Bootstraps PAC, a Triangle political action committee focused on literacy in the area, expressed her resentment as both a member of the organization, and also as a parent of a student of color. 

“We know that 85 percent of our black eighth grade males were sent to high school not knowing how to read on an eighth grade reading level,” Carey said. “They’re in high school now. They can’t access their curriculum. They can’t participate in their education. They’re not being offered help – we send them anyways.”

Carey said she had to take her child out of the public school system because her child was not at the adequate reading level. She then put her child in a private school. 

Brandi Hunter, a parent, expressed similar sentiments. 

“In August, I called the school to ask why I had not received my son’s new schedule," she said. "That is when I found out that they withdrew my son without my consent.” 

Hunter said she asked the counselor the reason for this; she said the counselor told Hunter that her son had been walking around telling students he was leaving.

"They withdrew my son without even contacting me," she said. "And what’s more disturbing is that same counselor I spoke to was the one who did it.”

Hunter said she refuses to believe that this would happen to a white student.

"I felt as if my children’s education here was meaningless to them,” she said.

Two students in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School System spoke after Hunter. 

“Growing up black, I knew that I would have to work twice as hard as any of my white classmate," said Kyesha Clark, a Carrboro High School junior. "In the classroom, I often felt isolated, oppressed, and robbed of an equal education opportunity. It felt like I had to kick and pull hair to get into my advanced classes that I currently take." 

Taliana Tudryn, a recent graduate of Carrboro High School, also spoke about her experience in the school system. 

“Though I have recently graduated from the system, my memories remind me of the disease of injustice me and my fellow students of color have faced and continue to face,” she said. 

“While our attempts to speak up against injustices were silenced and reprimanded in the name of keeping others comfortable, our white peers remain protected by freedom of speech and expression.”

Current and former employees in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School System voiced similar concerns.

“Our teachers of color feel that they have no voice in their schools," said Judy Jones, a retired district school teacher. "There are too few of them, and they often feel isolated and discounted.” 

Eugene Farrar, Chapel Hill High School custodian, said he has not seen a pay raise in five years.

“I started working full time for the school district in 2010, making $23K a year," he said. "Five years later, I’m still making the same thing. While administrators are going home to a luxury home, many of our staff members are going home to a second job.”

Stephanie Perry, co-chairperson of the North Carolina chapter of the Organizing Against Racism Alliance, said she has heard complains from people in many levels of the school system.

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“In our listening sessions over the past several months, we heard stories of gross injustices and saw years of disturbing data that persists to this day,” Perry said. “We stand on the shoulders of community groups and organizations like the NAACP who have worked on this issue for decades."

Perry then invited all members of the school board, superintendent, and the directors and assistants of equity to a meeting to discuss OAR’s comprehensive report.

"We are here tonight to sound an alarm and call to action our community and school district to work together to create the schools that our children deserve.”