Opp group alleges racism in schools

Published 1:51 am Friday, September 15, 2017

Members of Opp’s black community attended a meeting Thursday organized by Aaron Bogen, who alleges that race is a factor in how the school system deals with student incidents.

In August, the Opp Superintendent Michael Smithart informed school board members that he had taken disciplinary action against four students involved in a theft. In the follow-up discussion, board member Scotty Short suggested that students involved in extra-curricular activities should be held to higher standards.

See related story: Smithart challenges board to lead community

Bogen, who was not present at the meeting, took issue with the comments, and has been calling for Short’s removal from the board. The possibility of starting a petition to have Short removed was among the meeting topics, but no petition was begun.

Last week, Short told The Star-News he doesn’t know the students involved in the thefts, who are now facing charges in juvenile court. He was he has nothing against the kids, but wants the board to have “guidelines where everything is fair.”

But Bogen alleged that there had been several incidents in which different protocol was used for white offenders versus black offenders.

He also said that “a white boy texted a boy who got shot and said, ‘I wish I was the one who shot that black (expletive)’ ” and that nothing was done.

Bogen said that the incident did not occur at school, but that community members and students were concerned for the safety of their children.

He said there is no security and there are no metal detectors at the high school.

He pleaded with the roomful of parents and community members to help them get the kids “out of a hurricane.”

Bogen said they needed to figure out a way to not lose the children.

Those in attendance also expressed a desire for more guidance on college, careers and military for black students, and ensuring students have enough credits to graduate.

Another topic was bullying – both student and teacher.

Holley Brundidge encouraged parents to fill out bullying forms on students and teachers for any incident.

She said the system is required to turn those forms into the state department of education.

Brundidge said there are inequality issues and that there are good teachers and bad teachers and accused some teachers of targeting students.

“All school systems have problems,” she said.

She encouraged those in the room to step up.

It was also discussed the need to attend PTA meetings and school board meetings.

Several teachers also said they had incidents with their children involving teachers at Opp High School and had not been able to talk to the teacher specifically.

During the meeting, it was unclear what the OHS Student Handbook says. The Star-News has since obtained a copy of the handbook, which states school personnel should be available for conferences and or contacts among administrators, parents, guardians, teachers and students.

Buster Boyd, a white attorney from Houston, who currently lives in Andalusia, attended the meeting and asked several questions. He also told members of the group they “lacked focus,” and said the real problem in education is that “teachers are so put upon by complainers.”

The group plans to meet again at 6 p.m. next Thursday at Hardin Street Community Center.