A school district in Piedmont, California came under heavy scrutiny after offering a “support circle for white students” following the Derek Chauvin trial, and now officials have admitted it wasn’t such a good idea.
SFGate reports that Piedmont Unified School district assistant Cheryl Wozniak sent a message that invited white students to “discuss how the trial, verdict, and experiences related to the George Floyd murder are impacting you.” The idea was that two counselors would be made available for the “white students to process [and] share…to one another.” The optics on the offer aren’t great, especially as the school was offering other, segregated support groups for Black and BIPOC students.
Just one day after Wozniak sent the message, she admitted the offer resulted in “our students of color…feeling hurt and disrespected by district administration.” Some students expressed their concern about the project, according to SFGate, and the plans for such an offer were cancelled. One student described the decision as baffling, even if it “likely came with good intentions.”
In a statement shared on the school district’s website, Superintendent Randall Booker attempted to diffuse the situation. “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,” the statement reads. “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."
Cory Smegal, the PUSD board president, reiterated these comments in a board meeting, per the East Bay Times. He stressed that the message was a result of “poor phrasing,” and said students were “right” to call attention to the proposition. “Tonight we confirm our commitment to racial justice and continuing the work of anti-racism,” he concluded.