Students were enraged by a racially influenced tweet sent by Amy Strickland, the assistant principal of Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Virginia. On Monday the students abruptly departed class and began a protest in lieu of a tweet that alluded to young African-American men as a nightmare for Caucasian dads. The post, which has since been removed, was actually tweeted months ago but just recently seen by the students.
Although the high school is predominantly black, the assistant principal is not. The tweet in question included a picture of Caucasian girls accompanied by African-American males in tuxedos. The seven young ladies appeared to be attired in prom dresses and looked very happy with their dates of choice. The caption included with the image is what outraged the students and the NAACP.
Strickland is not the originator of the tweet, instead she retweeted the post from an account with the Twitter handle @ORNahhTweets. Not intending to offend anyone or viewing the tweet as racist, Strickland also forwarded it to her daughter. According to the accused, both of her daughters attended their proms with African-American dates. While looking further into her actions the high school has placed the assistant principal on administrative leave while they decide the best method to handle the situation.
The students were not calling for the assistant principal to be fired; they just wanted to bring light to the pain it caused. More than a dozen students exited the school after the school board and other officials refused to acknowledge their complaints. One of the students named Michael Lemelle said the tweet was offensive, not only to him, but others. He added:
Being a young African-American, I do not think of myself as anyone’s worst nightmare. The only actual way we could get someone’s attention, was to walk outside. It should not have come to this, but administration avoided all meetings, public speakings and emails; they avoided them all.
After these students decided to take the matter into their own hands they are finally being heard. The exit and protest were covered by national media and has put great pressure on the district to address the situation. While the school administration decides how they will handle the issue, the local chapter of the NAACP is calling for all staff within the Norfolk Public School District to undergo a series of culture sensitivity training.
According to Joe W. Dillard, Jr., president of the Norfolk Branch NAACP, Strickland’s character is not being questioned but her actions are deemed inappropriate in lieu of the culturally insensitive tweet. In a letter penned to the school Dillard stated:
The Norfolk Branch NAACP realizes that Norfolk Public Schools has policy and procedures in place to handle matters of violations by personnel and we, therefore, ask for quick and just adjudication of Assistant Principal Amy Strickland’s behavior. We have been aggressively investigating this matter and are still trying to discover the truths in this accusation.
Strickland, who was named 2014 Teacher of the Year, said she has devoted years of her life educating students within a predominantly African-American school. She has apologized and stated the tweet was not intended to harm anyone. Strickland also said it was sent prior to her employment at BTW High School. She was honored while teaching in the Portsmouth school system because of her exemplary record of achieving success and working well in an urban school system.
Dillard said the NAACP has, in recent years, made great strides toward the advancement of its mission to ensure the educational, political, economic and social equality to eliminate race-based discrimination. The NAACP, the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization, is committed to bringing the appropriate resolve to the recent uproar at Booker T. Washington High School. Initially, the students hoped to handle the matter internally but had no other recourse after being ignored by officials.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)