Williamson County parents defend Black Union student group

A group of African-American students at a Williamson County school has sparked online criticism that motivated parents Monday to seek help creating safe spaces.

Anita Ellerby-Brown called on the Williamson County Board of Education to request that social media posts alleging that the Independence High School Black Student Union Group promotes racism and critical racial theory agendas be removed to protect students from harassment and protect against violence.

“Through shared experiences, my daughter and her friends wanted to create a safe space for all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation,” Ellerby-Brown said.

In the past few days, a picture of a flyer advertising the dates and times of student group meetings has surfaced on social media. Critics included Moms for Liberty, the group behind a recent book removal and classroom adjustment in Williamson County.

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Ellerby-Brown, whose daughter is a founder of the student group, told the school board the online post, which included the students’ names, was “just disturbing.” The group, she added, is made up of more than 60 members, including college students who identify as “black, white, biracial, multiracial” and college students who identify as LGBTQ.

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Citing the federal Equality Access Act, Principal Jason Golden said student-founded clubs in the district have been honored for years.

“We make sure students have the capacity and ability to start their clubs based on the content they want,” Golden said. “It is important to us that the children, the students, are treated with respect.”

However, Golden added, it is difficult for the school system to regulate off-campus activities.

Parent: Why their child and others need safe spaces

Why do minority students and others need safe spaces in schools like Independence High School?

Ellerby-Brown explained to school board members Monday, telling them her daughter was the target of racial abuse, among other things; seeing vehicles with political and Confederate flags on campus playing explicit music mocking racial sensibilities; asked if she and her friends planned an anti-white riot after 10 people were killed and three others injured in Buffalo, New York, in July

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“Therefore, a safe space is required,” Ellerby-Brown said.

Lawyer calls out “feigned outrage”.

Revida Rahman, founder of parent group One Willco, which advocates for minority students in Williamson County, told the school board that she “witnessed a group of adults molesting a student and having other adverse childhood experiences … towards a student who who had already become a victim”.

Rahman, who is also a charter member of the school district’s Council on Cultural Competencies, referred to previous racist incidents at Williamson County schools and asked where the “outrage” at these issues was.

“Certain groups will have you believe that forming a black student group for support and safety at (Independence High School) is segregation and racism and division and claim that black students are playing the role of victim,” Rahman said. “Have you seen the student and teacher population here? Colored students at WCS deserve a club where they feel welcome and where they can socialize with like-minded students.

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“This feigned outrage is proof these students need a safe place in every school.”

How Williamson County Schools Addressed Related Issues

This latest incident comes a few months after a local parent association, Parent Choice Tennessee, filed a lawsuit to force the school district to stop using certain curriculum. The group claimed the curriculum violated state law by teaching critical race theory.

The school district has made efforts in recent years to emphasize diversity and inclusion. Changes included the creation of a cultural skills council, the hiring of a diversity and inclusion firm, and the introduction of a bullying QR code system.

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