Black students pulled from class for assembly, Florida school says. Principal resigns

The principal of a Florida elementary school has resigned after reports circulated of an assembly that only invited Black students and criticized their test scores.

“Donelle Evensen, principal at Bunnell Elementary School, has informed Superintendent LaShakia Moore that she is resigning from that post,” Flagler County Schools shared in a news release Sept. 7.

McClatchy News reached out to Evensen for comment and is awaiting a response.

The former principal, Marcus Sanfilippo, will fill in as interim principal, according to the release.

The incident involves fourth and fifth-grade students who were called to an assembly, Flagler Schools said in a news release on Aug. 22.

However, all the students at the assembly were Black, the Washington Post reported. About 20% of students at Bunnell Elementary are Black, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

The presentation said that Black students had underperformed on standardized assessments for the past three years, CNN reported.

“While the desire to help this particular subgroup of students is to be commended, how this was done does not meet the expectations we desire among Flagler Schools,” Moore said in the Aug. 22 release.

Flagler Schools spokesman Jason Wheeler told The Washington Post that “students were selected to attend based on their race.”

McClatchy News could not immediately reach Flagler Schools for comment.

Moore said in the news release that she spoke with Evensen regarding what led to the assembly and “steps that were or were not taken before or after it.”

“In speaking with Mrs. Evensen, it is clear there was no malice intended in planning this student outreach,” Moore said. “However, sometimes, when you try to think ‘outside the box,’ you forget why the box is there.”

WESH obtained a copy of a letter Evensen sent, in which she said she felt she did not deserve what was happening to her.

“I have tried my best to make known to district officials the positive manner in which the meeting with African American students took place,” she wrote in a letter to faculty.

The district denounced the assembly in a news conference, saying it does not, “in any way, support the activity that took place at Bunnell Elementary School,” according to Cheryl Massaro, the School Board Chair of District 5.

“To the parents and students, and students affected by these actions, of the Flagler County community, we make no excuses, but extend our apology, all of our apologies,” Massaro said. “It should not have happened.”

Moore said she began calling the families of students who were affected.

“They were upset, you know, but at the end of the conversation they understood this happened, it should not have happened, we apologized, now what are we going to do about it?” Moore said during the conference.

She said when students are struggling in school, it is often addressed at an individual level through strategies such as parent-teacher conferences.

“Why an assembly of this style was chosen, I am not sure,” Moore said.

The district said it hoped to complete the investigation by Sept. 8.

Flagler County is about 80 miles northeast of Orlando.

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