A Pinellas County elementary school sent home a letter that has turned controversial because of how it was written and how it singled out students.
Northwest Elementary School in St. Petersburg sent home a flier on Monday that read:
"Northwest parents, we need your help. Northwest is forming a parent/staff focus group. Why? Our behavior data is showing our black students are getting the majority of the referrals at school! We need your help in generating ideas and giving suggestions on how we can improve our interactions with our black students to help them be more successful in school."
The flier invited parents to a meeting on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 at 6 p.m.
Cheri Cummings has a son in third grade at Northwest said, "Maybe someone should have looked over the letter before it went out, to make sure it wasn't politically incorrect, and basically stereotyping a race within the school."
A spokeswoman for the Pinellas County School District said the letter was not approved by the district before it was sent out.
In a statement they said:
"Northwest Elementary had a desire to carry out a district-wide training on discipline disparities at the school level. As a result, a community meeting was organized between the school and selected parents to better understand the issue and discuss proactive solutions. Unfortunately, insensitive language was used on the flyer. The flyer was not approved by the district. Pinellas County Schools is committed to respectful and caring relationships, as well as cultural competence. We have worked with Northwest Elementary and will improve the process for communicating with families.”
The district gave us the following numbers for what made the school realize they want to address:
Of 144 referrals for the 2015-2016 school year:
- 61.1% of those were African American students
- 37.5% were Caucasian students
- 1.4% were Hispanics.
"Maybe send out the letter showing the different races, the behavior issues and say we're having an issue," said Cummings.
The district also said they have started looking for ways to be proactive in reducing the number of referrals in all the schools not just Northwest.
In February, they started collaborating with community advocates and national leaders to address discipline disparities in the classroom.
The meeting is still planned for next week.