NORTH PORT, Fla. – Administrators at a Florida middle school faced a severe backlash from parents and students after they organized a field trip only for black students.
Heron Creek Middle School scheduled a trip to Black Violin, a “performance by black musicians,” WSTP reports.
“I think it should be the whole school not just blacks,” says black seventh-grader Richard Service.
Instead, administrators were caught segregating students based on race.
The school received 50 tickets and decided to give them only to black students. “They said it was for blacks to be motivated to improve their grades,” according to Service.
“No matter what race it’s wrong all the way around,” according to parent Steve Moreno.
Other parents were harshly critical of the move on a community Facebook page. Linda Prince wrote:
Just wanted to let the community be aware of what is happening at Heron Creek Middle School. Yesterday they called an assemble for ONLY African American students. The assembly was to tell them that they could earn a field trip for good behavior. After writing a email to the school board last night letting them know I was upset, I received a call from the vice principle this afternoon. He told me it was because there was an upcoming performance from a group called Two Black Musicians and they thought it would be a good motivational tool for their African American students. I thought segregation ended a long time ago. I completely do not agree with this. Basically I was told we just have to agree to disagree.
After the backlash, administrators decided to allow all students to attend.
“We care about every child on this campus. We celebrate diversity all the time,” Principal Matthew Gruhl says.
“We didn’t mean to send a negative message. We wanted to be positive,” according to Gruhl. “We learned from this,” he says, adding a bit sarcastically, “We are sorry if we hurt people’s feelings.”
Gruhl had told students they were changing the rules not because they were caught segregating students based on race, but because, “We learned there’s a demand for all our students to have an opportunity to see this great performance.”
They’re now trying to raise $3,500 to purchase 500 tickets so more students can go, based on grades and behavior and not race. There’s no word on who will go if they don’t raise that amount of money.
“They had some parents upset this opportunity was not extended to more students,” Sarasota County schools spokesman Scott Ferguson tells the Herald-Tribune. “They decided today to open it up to all students who met the same criteria. That involves grades and behavior and other criteria.”
“That’s how should have been in the beginning,” parent Steve Moreno tells the news station.