A school in Maumelle, Arkansas, has come under fire for holding an assembly about gang violence exclusively for black students.
A loudspeaker announcement at Maumelle High School pulled black freshmen out of activities period Wednesday to hear local pastor Dante Shelton speak about his experience with gangs, Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) spokesperson Deborah Roush confirmed to NTRSCTN on the phone Friday.
Roush told NTRSCTN in a statement that the district "regrets that this inspirational program was not made available to all students and in the future will work to ensure that when outside speakers are brought into a school that all students are included."
She added, "Black students were selected with the intent that the assembly would be an extension of the district's court-ordered desegregation efforts, which encourage programs and opportunities tailored to minority students."
But community members were skeptical that an all-black assembly about a racially charged issue is an effective diversity initiative.
"There's a lot of other things they could've done besides that," one parent told local NBC affiliate KARK 4 News.
"I still partially feel like they could've organized something else," another local told the station.
Arron Perkins, a biracial student whose sister attended the assembly, told local ABC affiliate KATV, "What does that leave kids that are mixed? 'Oh, you know, that's my other side that's calling, let me go learn about gang-banging.' To me it's just wrong on every level."
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas wrote a letter to the school stating that "segregating students by race for a school assembly raises grave concerns for the equal protection rights of the students present."
According to the letter, the ACLU received reports that the talk also addressed gang rape and drugs, and that female students were asked why they were attracted to gang members.
"To be called out in a racially segregated fashion and singled out for a lecture on gangs and drugs violated these students' rights to equal protection under the law and labels them with harmful stereotypes about students of color," the letter reads.
Roush, however, said that though the school and the district received six phone complaints, only one person contacted the ACLU and the overall reaction to the assembly was "overwhelmingly positive."