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Segregated assembly sparks protest 

ACORN members picket the Wake County School Board over segregated assemblies. The children in front are Trey Rochelle, 7, and Tauheed Rochelle, 10, students at Hunter Elementary School. Their mother, Daisier Watson, is hidden by the flag.

Photo by Bob Geary

ACORN members picket the Wake County School Board over segregated assemblies. The children in front are Trey Rochelle, 7, and Tauheed Rochelle, 10, students at Hunter Elementary School. Their mother, Daisier Watson, is hidden by the flag.

A community group and the head of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina picketed the Wake County School Board Monday trying to turn up the heat over segregated assemblies held in December at Dillard Drive Middle School in Raleigh.

About two dozen members of ACORN’s Raleigh chapter, joined by Jennifer Rudinger, ACLU-NC’s executive director, marched outside the Wake Schools building while the board was in session. Protesters renewed their demand for a public meeting with school principal Teresa Abron, and for her apology, over her response to a clash Dec. 4 between two seventh-grade girls, one black, the other Hispanic. That afternoon, Abron called separate meetings for seventh-graders in the school auditorium, one for blacks and one for Hispanics. During the meeting, school officials scolded students about the fight and informed them of the school’s disciplinary problems in general. Students were also warned about the school’s no-tolerance policy on gang activities and gang insignia, which sparked the fight.

Meanwhile, white students stayed in their classrooms.

In a statement, ACORN members said they submitted a petition to Abron last week signed by 177 people, including some Dillard Drive parents, renewing an earlier request that she meet publicly with them and any interested people. Abron said no, and her area superintendent, Julye Mizelle, followed with a formal rejection letter on Friday.

ACORN’s statement called on the school board to “recognize our demands,” adding: “We cannot let the actions of Dr. Abron go unchallenged.”

Before the school board meeting began, School Board Chairperson Rosa Gill was dismissive about the protest and Abron’s actions. “You mean the decision to de-escalate the situation?” she said. Asked about the propriety of segregated meetings, Gill answered, “We totally leave that up to our administrators.”

Mizelle’s letter called the Dec. 4 incident “serious,” saying groups of students were taking sides afterward and “sparing (sic) off for a fight.” Abron made a difficult decision, Mizelle said. “This is not Mrs. Abron’s practice, and we do not expect this situation to recut. Fortunately, Mrs. Abron’s intervention that day was successful and a major disturbance was avoided.”

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