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More Diversity in Charles County Schools after substitute teacher seen on Facebook with Confederate flag nearby
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On Friday, Charles County Public Schools announced an expanded focus on “equity, diversity, and cultural competency” after two staff members employed by the Southern Maryland school district were separately accused of engaging in hateful and discriminatory speech.
A Confederate flag & the N-word repeated
The first incident came in mid-November, when some parents called for the ouster of long-term substitute teacher Kathleen Sturgill, a white woman, because her personal Facebook profile showed “racially insensitive photos”, and because in the classroom, she would sometimes take a “derogatory” tone with students of color, saying things to them like: “that’s why your grade is an F, you know”.
The insensitive photos were obtained by Southern Maryland News, there were two.
The first photo shows Sturgill in her car, wearing a mask, with a Confederate flag visible in the backseat background. The second shows her gesturing a three-finger-salute, a hand signal popularized by Katniss Everdeen fictitiously in The Hunger Games as a way of signaling appreciation and revolutionary kinship, but which the newspaper now says has become a “popular symbol among white supremacist groups” in the real world.
The second incident came shortly after, when teacher’s assistant Rosie Roy, also a white a woman, allegedly repeated the N-word in direct response to a black student who had just hurled the word at her accompanied by a “fuck you”.
After Roy was placed on leave with pay while the incident was investigated further, she is said to have resigned. While Sturgill, previously a seven-year chaperone for Potomac Heights Baptist Church, is safe on a technicality, because personal Facebook profiles fall outside the jurisdiction of CCPS employment policies, at least for now.
This work is more than diversity training
Charles County Schools Superintendent Maria Navarro, previously a Chief Academic Officer for Baltimore City and Montgomery County schools, reacted saying she was “disheartened” by the “hate and discriminatory speech” in her school system. She acknowledged that, even though CCPS staff already complete annual diversity and equity training, it is clearly “not enough”.
Navarro reminded everyone that CCPS already has an Educational Equity Task Force Committee, before announcing that the Charles County chapter of the NAACP would now be taking on an expanded role in the school system, specifically to: “support the onboarding of new staff, including teachers”.
Navarro confirmed all this work is a “priority” for her school system, as she called for a “collective” and “deep review” of all their “policies” and “practices”, in order to cultivate what the NAACP called a “discrimination-free” school environment.
Two days before Navarro’s announcement, on Wednesday of last week, a bullet was found lodged inside of a lunchroom table at an elementary school in the district. Investigators believe someone fired a shot into the air nearby while the school was closed.