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School superintendent addresses alleged racial incident at MHS

by Larry S. Chowning

On Wednesday, November 5, the day after Barack Obama became the first black president-elect of the United States, there were alleged racial issues at Middlesex High School (MHS) that resulted in the NAACP and TV Channel 8 News of Richmond getting involved.

School superintendent Rusty Fairheart reported there was “alleged tension” in one classroom at MHS where someone wrote a racial slur on a blackboard. Also, several students made inappropriate actions during the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag, he said.

This upset several black students, who informed their parents. The parents took the matter to the high school principal and the superintendent of schools.

“I met with the parents and we had a positive and productive meeting,” said Fairheart. “I assured them we would do everything we could to provide a safe and secure environment in our schools.”

After the meeting, the NAACP and Channel 8 got involved, and the incident was the lead story on the 6 p.m. Channel 8 news that evening. A TV reporter interviewed two black parents as members of the NAACP looked on.

Fairheart sent a letter home to parents on Thursday, November 6, which stated, “With the changes in our national climate and the results of the recent Presidential election, I feel it is necessary that we correspond with our school community.

“Numerous opinions on the election results have been communicated in our school and some honest beliefs have been expressed. Our students have the right to their opinions. Yet, we encourage you to dialogue with your child about the importance of tolerance of ethnicity, culture, race and political belief.

“Additionally, please take this opportunity to discuss behaviors that are, and are not acceptable, in the school setting,” wrote Fairheart. “When we are faced with differing opinions and beliefs, emotions and pride can cloud true feelings and intentions.”

Fairheart said he had a meeting with faculty at all three county schools to provide “a meaningful framework to address this sensitive and emotional issue.

“We must all remain vigilant and proactive anytime sensitive issues or major events affecting our school community take place,” he said.

There was no reported violence and no police were called to MHS in connection to the November 5 incident.

posted 11.12.2008

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