FREEPORT (WREX) — Freeport Middle School is standing up to criticism of its decision to separate students by gender and race. It’s part of a program its calls “Chat and Chew” sessions. But some parents say it’s similar to segregation and they don’t support it.
“I feel like it’s almost segregating and more of a separation than it is unifying.” said Chelsea Kruger, who has a son at FMS.
Kruger said her son brought the letter home this week about the school’s “Chat and Chew” sessions. It said it was dividing up students by race and gender throughout the next month to go over academic and behavior data. At the bottom of the letter is a graph showing data for each race. While less than a quarter of the students are black and bi-racial, they make up more than 60 percent of the behavior referrals.
“I’m concerned that while I know that there’s a lot of cultural differences between different groups, I know that there’s gender differences, I think it’s important that we work together. Because when you’re not unified, I don’t feel like you get to learn about those differences,” Kruger said.
Her concern was shared by a handful of people on social media, some of whom were angry they didn’t know about the plan until after the school already pulled aside the black and bi-racial boys.
One parent said, “I sincerely hope there is more to this than what I see. Separating them by race was unnecessary.”
Another person said, “So let’s divide and hold separate assemblies? Each hearing a different message? Not a united message…no matter how hard you try.”
But Freeport Middle School leaders disagree.
“We’re not trying to separate,” said Principal Renee Coleman.
She and Assistant Principal Melissa Sagon say breaking the kids up into groups makes them feel safe about the data they’re seeing.
“When you have over 4,000 African American men, boys, in our school getting written up, that’s a problem. That kind of issue needs to be discussed. And no better for a student in this building to tell use what’s going on. How can the school help you? How can we support you?” said Coleman.
“Is there some training we need to give staff? Is there some training we need to give students? Find the root cause, that’s what this is all about,” said Sago.
They say they are worried doing that with all races together in one space would be a mistake.
“Just think, if we put all of them together that the person they’re sitting next to has 4,000 referrals. Would that have been a safe environment?” said Coleman.
“Of course I’m going to feel safe with people that are like me, but then you create a bubble,” said Kruger.
While there’s still some disagreement about the program, Coleman says she stands behind it and the chat and chews will continue through the end of the month.