Calif school district divides into segregated ‘support circles’, then apologizes for offering it to white students

A California school district is apologizing for offering white students a “restorative community circle” following the Derek Chauvin verdict. But they aren’t apologizing for racially segregated support circles.

Following the trial and conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, the Piedmont Unified School District implemented racially segregated “support circles for students who were disturbed by the trial.” School officials then turned around and issued a formal apology for including white students.

The apology came after the district received criticism from students and staff for offering a “support circle for white students” after the verdict was rendered.

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Cheryl Wozniak issued an email offering both students and staff racially segregated “restorative community circles,” on April 21.

“We are offering a restorative community circle,” she stated in the email, “to support White students who would like to discuss how the trial, verdict, and experiences related to the George Floyd murder are impacting you.”

According to Wozniak, two counselors would be “holding a space for our White students to process [and] share … to one another.”

“Support circles” were also conducted for black and Indigenous people, as well as other people of color, often referred to as BIPOC.

A day after the email was sent, Wozniak reportedly “issued an apology for the decision to hold a white student support circle, saying that ‘the impact on our students of color has left them feeling hurt and disrespected by district administration.’” She announced that the sessions were canceled.

Randy Booker, who is Piedmont Unified’s superintendent, corroborated her statements in a school board meeting that was held on April 28.

“My role is to call out systems of structural oppression; inequities that promote them led to where these exist in our district,” he declared. “We need to live up to our board policy on racial equity. It’s still in infancy steps.”

He also posted an apology on the district’s website: “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. 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.”

School board president Cory Smegal was quick to heap praise on students for calling attention to the ‘egregious’ matter. He then suggested that those who facilitated the racially segregated support circles should not be fired.

“Poor phrasing in an email resulted in an invitation coming across as an insult. Our students were the first to call attention to it, and they were right to do so,” Smegal gushed. “The leadership response was swift and direct — an apology, an explanation … If we silence those who take risks and make mistakes along the way, we discourage others from stepping forward to enter into this important work at a time when all of our words are so highly charged and under such scrutiny.”

This is not the only instance of racial segregation in the nation’s schools. In fact, the practice is becoming prevalent. A Wisconsin high school just recently segregated parents during a discussion on police brutality. Student families were encouraged to discuss “all the police brutality and violence that is going on” according to an email. That same email claimed that it is “very necessary to have space for our families to discuss and process.”

In the email, there were two separate links for Zoom meetings… one that applied to parents “of color” and the other for white parents.


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