A school district in Piedmont, California is regretting its decision to offer support to white students in the wake of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial.
As reported by SFGate, after Chauvin’s guilty verdict, the Piedmont Unified School district planned a “restorative circle” inviting white students to talk about the impact “the trial, verdict and experiences related to the George Floyd murder” was having on their lives. Separate groups were offered to students of color.
After the segregated support groups were met with an onslaught of backlash, district assistant Cheryl Wozniak — who sent the initial email to members of the Millennium and Piedmont high schools — confessed that the idea of a support circle backfired after students of color said that they were “feeling hurt and disrespected by district administration.”
The school district nixed its offer after the students expressed their concerns.
Superintendent Randall Booker released a statement addressing the controversial offer.
“A poor choice of words in the subject line of the invitation to white students led to the perception that white students needed the same kind of ‘support’ as our BIPOC students,” he said in a statement. “Students of all racial backgrounds rightfully pushed back on that idea. We agree, and we want to affirm in the strongest terms that our commitment is to give all students a place to express their feelings and to learn how to engage in important issues.”
“My role is to call out systems of structural oppression; inequities that promote them led to where these exist in our district,” he added, per the East Bay Times. “We need to live up to our board policy on racial equity. It’s still in infancy steps.”
PUSD board President Cory Smegal also admitted that the message was in poor taste and issued an apology to students. “Our students were the first to call attention to it, and they were right to do so,” she said. “The leadership response was swift and direct — an apology, an explanation. But we understand that all of these caused harm that needs repair.” She added her hopes that the district isn’t written off due to a few mistakes made along the way.