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A North Carolina school board voted unanimously Monday to approve an action plan after reported racial bullying in the district, including a student-organized mock auction of Black students.
A group of parents and community members had called on the Chatham County School District to make changes after several reported racial bullying instances at schools in the district.
In a Facebook post March 4, Ashley Palmer said her Black son told her that some of his classmates were sold in a mock slave auction at J.S. Waters School, which serves grades K-8.
"Our son experienced a slave auction by his classmates and when he opened up we were made aware that this type of stuff seems to be the norm so much that he didn't think it was worth sharing. His friend 'went for $350' and another student was the Slavemaster because he 'knew how to handle them.'" Palmer wrote in her post. She wrote that students also sang the n-word.
In a later post, Palmer said that the students involved in the auction received a one-day suspension, and alleges her son was assaulted by a classmate and has faced "continuous harassment" at the school since he reported the incident.
CNN was unable to reach Palmer for additional information.
During public comment at the Chatham County School Board meeting Monday, several students, parents and community members spoke to the board about their experiences with racism and concerns over the incident.
One mother, who said her son was one of the children allegedly sold in a mock slave auction, told the board about the conversation she had with him after hearing from another parent what happened.
"I asked my son why didn't he tell me? He responded with, 'Mom it wasn't a big deal,'" she said. "I am a mother who just had to explain to my son why being auctioned as a slave is unacceptable. This moment in my son's early life has already made him question playing the sport he loves with his friends, and I pray this does not impact him mentally and socially going forward."
Before presenting the school board with an action plan, Superintendent Anthony Jackson offered an apology.
"As a father, as an educator, as a grandfather, tonight was very difficult. It's difficult to sit here and listen and hear and hurt for our children. Schools are for children, and as partners with parents, we are responsible for helping students realize their full potential. As many people identified tonight, creating safe environments for students is the first promise schools make to families," he said.
"As a newcomer to our school system and to this community, before I offer any plans, I want to do something that needs to be done here publicly. I want to offer an apology. An apology to every single student who has ever felt unsafe while in our care. To every student who has ever felt demeaned, disrespected or marginalized because of their race, ethnicity, sex, gender, religion or disability. In Chatham County Schools we proudly boast that diversity is our strength and moving forward it will be our intentional focus to ensure that this celebration includes everyone. Moving forward my personal commitment to you is that we will do better," he continued.
Jackson's action plan included changes in the district policy to how discriminatory situations would be handled from start to finish -- including notification of parents and guardians, investigation, discipline, social support and resources for victims, staff training and an after-action plan.
The board voted unanimously to adopt his action plan.
When reached for more information on the incidents, the Chatham County School District referred CNN to a letter that Jackson sent to the community and his comments during the board meeting.
- by Jamiel Lynch, CNN