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Florida principal under fire for allegedly telling staff to put white students in same class

Published: Monday, May 01, 2017 @ 2:49 PM
By: Patrick McMahon, Rare.us

A Florida principal earned a swift reprimand after allegedly instructing her staff to put white students in the same class.

Christine Hoffman is principal of Campbell Park Elementary in St. Petersburg. Her school is majority African-American, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

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Earlier this year, Hoffman reportedly sent an email to school staff with instructions on assembling classrooms for the 2017-2018 school year. The Times reported that Hoffman asked teachers to assemble classrooms with “a mix of reading levels,” an “equal number of boys and girls" and “no more than two students who frequently misbehave per class.” She also reportedly said the few white students per grade should be placed in the same class.

This appears to be a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids schools from segregating on the basis of race or national origin verbatim.

Hoffman did not detail why she sought to segregate classes in the original email and has not done so since the incident. It’s worth nothing that she only sought to separate white students from the rest of the student body; Hispanic, Asian and multiracial students were not mentioned in any context.

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Maria Scruggs, president of the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP, said she is “at a loss for words,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

“I thought it was a joke,” she said when interviewed last week.

Hoffman has apologized for the email and will “leave campus," according to the Times. She is currently undergoing an “administrative review” by Pinellas County school officials. They will determine her fitness to return to a role with the district, where she’s taught since 1991.

Although parents have called for Hoffman’s resignation, she’s apparently not going quietly. Hoffman joined two officials for a Monday morning meeting with parents and supposedly told those present that she was the “best thing that has happened to Campbell Park.”

On Thursday, she wrote an email to her school’s staff, apologizing for her “poor judgement,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.

She apologized to parents on Friday.

“As a white woman leading a predominantly black school, I am approaching this as an opportunity to learn,” Hoffman wrote in a letter to parents, according to the Huffington Post. “Although I have participated in training on diversity and implicit bias, this recent incident makes it clear that I need to seek additional opportunities to apply racial sensitivity and cultural competence in my work.”

According to Hoffman’s apology last week, she did not intend to group all white students in one class together. 

“The guidelines included a statement on assigning white students together, and I explained in the meeting that I was asking that there not be a class with only one white student,” she said. “I was not asking that all white students in each grade be clustered, as that is not our practice in creating class lists. I understand how racially insensitive the guideline was.”

Brianna Chambers contributed to this report.