Opinion on Woodford County Public Schools’ recent plan

Opinion Editorial Submission By Chair George W. Stinson, Board of Commissioners, Kentucky Commission on Human Rights

Subject: Woodford County Public Schools recent plan to meet with minority and students on financial assistance

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights finds very disturbing a plan by the Woodford County High School to segregate in an assembly-type meeting this week, African American and Hispanic students, and students who receive financial assistance for lunch to discuss improving academic performance.  The Commission joins the Kentucky Department of Education in rejecting the notion of segregating students by race, national origin and economic status to discuss academic performance while apparently exempting majority students to discuss academic performance at the same time.

This plan came to light through a recent letter from school officials to parents of students who belong to these groups and said the school planned to hold the group meeting on Dec. 13 with these students. The parent letter said that recent statistics show these groups to have greater [achievement] gaps and that the meeting was intended to offer support and assistance.

The letter upset parents and members of the public, after which the Woodford County School Superintendent canceled the planned assembly.

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights strongly supports the Kentucky Department of Education’s response regarding the Woodford County High School meeting plan.  

Kentucky Dept. of Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, Ph.D., said in a letter on Dec. 14 to Woodford County School Superintendent Scott Hawkins, “While I certainly hope that the letter was a lapse of judgment and an extremely poor choice of words by school staff, I nonetheless expect immediate corrective action to occur that will include appropriate gap reduction activities and the training of staff.”

He instructed the superintendent to also conduct a culture audit of the high school with an action plan to address any findings.

He further wrote, “Finally, we must all be reminded that while each student deserves an education that provides for high levels of achievement, no direct or indirect act or practice of exclusion, distinction, restriction, segregation, or any other act or practice of differentiation will be tolerated in Kentucky schools.”

While the Commission has not formally investigated the matter, and therefore does not draw an ultimate conclusion on the actual facts of this situation, the Commission nevertheless joins with the good citizens of Woodford County, the Department of Education, and all others who oppose any direct or indirect act or practice of exclusion, distinction, restriction, segregation, or any other act or practice of differentiation based on race, color, national origin, or any other intrinsic characteristic within Kentucky schools.