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Special Ed Department at East Chapel Hill High in Turmoil After Educator Complaints – Chapelboro.com

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Posted by Elle Kehres | Nov 24, 2021 | Instagram, Pre-K – 12 Education
 
UPDATE: 97.9 The Hill/Chapelboro has since updated wording in this story after reviewing the email from the family who requested a change in teacher’s assistants at East Chapel Hill High School. The family, who is being kept anonymous to protect sensitive information about their child, did not include any phrasing regarding race or gender in their request. Additionally, the teacher’s assistants in this story confirmed to 97.9 The Hill/Chapelboro they were never showed the email with the parent’s request. Phrasing in this article has since been updated to reflect this information. Find the follow-up to this story with new information here
The Exceptional Children department at East Chapel Hill High School is in turmoil, with several department educators expressing concern over recent administrative actions.
According to these educators, several complaints have been filed with the Human Resources Department at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools as two Teacher’s Assistants (TAs) were asked by administrators to move out of a classroom because of their race.
Darrell Parker has been a Teacher’s Assistant in East Chapel Hill’s Exceptional Children department for nearly 20 years. Recently, however, Parker said he has been pushed in and out of his regular classroom after administrators said one parent requested their child not work with African American males.
“So, I’m saying to myself, since when can parents pick and choose who works with their children,” Parker said.
On October 4, Parker said a department-wide meeting was called by Assistant Principal Ileana Herrera and Adaptive Curriculum teacher Constance Leder. Adapted Curriculum students fall under the Exceptional Children umbrella, consisting of those with special needs or varying levels of learning disabilities. At that meeting, Parker said administrators chose to support what they said was a parent’s request to remove Black males from Leder’s classroom.
“The actual principal himself wanted me to move,” Parker said. “And I’m like, ‘No, I’m not moving,’ and I left it like that. I said I’m not moving because this is not right. I have not done anything. I can’t help that I’m Black.”
Tonya Stanley is an Adapted Curriculum special education teacher at East Chapel Hill High. She said department educators asked that the email from the parent making the request be shown, however it “was not produced.”
After that October meeting, Stanley told 97.9 The Hill that she filed her own grievances with the district’s Human Resources Department, advocating for Parker’s right to stay in Leder’s classroom.
Stanley said she left the meeting confused as to why the administration would try to honor what they said was a parent’s request to remove African American TAs from their child’s classroom – and that Assistant Principal Herrera’s comments at the meeting only added to the confusion.
“She made the reference to saying that it was like a gun put to her head because she was going to have to do this,” Stanley said, “and she didn’t have any other choice.”
An email from Assistant Principal Ileana Herrera to Adapted Curriculum staff discussing potential TA changes ahead of the department-wide meeting (email via Tonya Stanley)
On October 7, Stanley sent a formal letter to East Chapel Hill’s Senior Human Resource Director. In that letter, she said she spoke with Herrera and asked the assistant principal not to support the parent’s request as shared by administrators. According to Stanley, however, Herrera “said she had no choice due to the legal ramifications behind this family and lawsuits.”
Stanley’s letter addressed to CHCCS’ Human Resources Department airing her grievances and calling for action (letter via Tonya Stanley – snapshot taken by 97.9 The Hill)
It is not uncommon for families of students with special needs to have legal representation. Under a federal law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, every child who is eligible to receive special education services must have an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
If a student’s IEP is not being met, there could be grounds for TA removal or transfer. Parents may also be able to pursue a lawsuit or other legal action against the school to further advocate for their child’s right to a fair education; however, 97.9 The Hill has not received confirmation of a violation.
In an email obtained by 97.9 The Hill, Herrera told Parker he could either leave Leder’s classroom or go work with the general ed population, away from the exceptional children he has dedicated his career to.
“These kids that [are] in the program do not adapt well to change,” Parker said. “There has to be a consistency because it takes time for these kids to build relationships with you and to trust you. To suddenly take that away from them, they don’t do well, and you see subtle changes in them.”
The email from Herrera read, “We are currently on dire straits, and we can’t wait any longer. If you decide not to [move classes], then the other option is for you to work with the general ed population, but at this point, we need to know.”
An email from Assistant Principal Ileana Herrera to Darrell Parker asking for his decision on changing classrooms. Principal Ken Proulx is cc’d (email via Darrell Parker)
Darrell Parker wasn’t the only TA affected by these administrative actions. According to Stanley, Adam Watkins, another African American TA at East Chapel Hill, turned in his resignation after he too was asked to leave Leder’s classroom.
“It goes back to understanding why they’re allowing the conduct of a teacher in that classroom to continue to lose TAs,” said Stanley. “And then also why they’re supporting a parent who’s requesting that no African Americans be in the room. So, it’s like a two-part series in that room. One is surrounding the teacher and her conduct and the second is the request of a parent.”
After having worked in the school system for more than 10 years, Watkins’ last day was November 4, as confirmed by CHCCS.
When Stanley initially voiced her concerns to Herrera regarding inter-department TA movement, the discussion was turned over to East Chapel Hill High Principal Ken Proulx. On September 20, prior to the department-wide meeting which sources said was postponed several times, Proulx sent out an e-mail stating that Adam Watkins would move from Leder’s classroom – however, Stanley said Watkins resigned before that could happen.
“He was an awesome jewel at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools,” Stanley said. “He was a coach. He was a bus driver. He was a TA. He was a mentor. He was all those things to all students, not just students with disabilities.”
An email from Principal Ken Proulx to OCS and Adapted Curriculum teachers announcing the change of TAs – prior to Adam Watkins’ resignation (email via Tonya Stanley)
Earlier this month, Proulx announced that he is set to leave East Chapel Hill High School at the end of the calendar year to become the new principal of Newport Middle School. Proulx has worked at East Chapel Hill High since the 2018-19 school year.
As of November 23, Stanley told 97.9 The Hill that this issue has still largely remained unaddressed by the administration as a whole. While she has met with the Lincoln Center to review her grievances and begin an investigation, Stanley said the summary of investigation findings has still not been released to her.
“It’s been three years and I’ve not had a pleasant school three years at all being at this district,” said Stanley. “I love working at Chapel Hill, but no employee should have to endure as much harassment and loss or threat of employment as I have in this district.”
After weeks of back and forth and ongoing requests to move from his current department, Parker said he is still in Leder’s classroom, with confirmation from the district that no TAs are being reassigned to different classrooms at this time.
CHCCS district leadership provided an initial statement to 97.9 The Hill before sharing an updated statement following publication:
“We encourage, respect and appreciate when employees share their concerns and feedback, particularly when raising issues about how to best serve our students. However, students are not well served when staff do not work through those issues with their colleagues, or when aspects of those issues are inaccurately described in a local news report. Unfortunately, in this instance, we feel some of the quoted interview statements do not present a fair or entirely accurate picture of ongoing efforts to best meet the needs of our students, and wrongly mischaracterize the actions of some, as well as the timeline of events.
We appreciate that attempts were made to hear from others involved in this matter, but out of continued respect for the privacy of students, parents, and employees, we cannot comment further. We will continue to address the matter directly with the individuals involved.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools believes wholeheartedly that teacher and staff diversity enhance the learning experiences of all students. We are committed to anti-racist actions and supporting school environments that are free from discrimination in all forms while cultivating welcoming, affirming and high-quality learning environments for all.”
Although, while Parker gets to continue working in Leder’s classroom, serving the students he has come to know very well, he said he expects more from the school district.
“To see our educational system result to this, I feel bad and I shouldn’t, but I do,” he said. “I feel bad. I’m from Chapel Hill. My kids graduated from Chapel Hill. I graduated from Chapel Hill and to see that the school system is at this state now, it’s deplorable.”
97.9 The Hill reached out to Constance Leder for comment but has received no response.
97.9 The Hill and Chapelboro.com will continue to follow-up with educators and provide additional context as we learn more about the working culture at East Chapel Hill High. Find the follow-up story here
 
Editor’s Note: The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district shared an updated statement with 97.9 The Hill on Tuesday. It has replaced the initial statement in the article.
Editor’s Note 11/29: A paragraph explaining the legal rights of special needs families/students was added under the second photo.
Lead photo via WRAL.
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Regarding: https://chapelboro.com/news/pre-k-12-education/special-education-department-at-east-chapel-hill-high-in-turmoil-following-educator-complaints
I find it appalling that 1) a parent even could believe/express such a sentiment and 2) even MORE appalling and EXTREMELY disgraceful that the school supported this parent. Would the school support a parent who said they didn’t want to have a white woman teach their child? I sent my child to this public high school to learn from and experience diversity; I was under the apparently false impression that school administrators also supported diversity. Clearly this isn’t the case. There needs to be a serious apology from the school and reinstatement of Mr. Parker’s job WITH restitution. Unless this happens, I cannot, in good conscience, any support any activities of the Chapel Hill Carborro School district.
Anyone else think this sounds fishy?
Yes. There must be something we are not being told.
No.
I agree. It’s exceedingly disgraceful and racist AF, but in what universe would an administrator EVER entertain such a request?! It’s such a blatantly fireable offense that would open a district up to an HR nightmare and an employee lawsuit. It’s baffling to say the least.
💯!!!
When you have over 30 combined years of service from both of the teachers mentioned in the article, with nothing but admiration from fellow colleagues and students, I can’t think of any other explanation than a FAILURE of this school administration to condemn an absurd request from ONE set of parents for what it is — racist, entitled and unacceptable. Both of these men have been nothing short of pillars of this school community, wholly dedicated to their students. Let us bring light to this administration’s lack of courage in their inability to deny an appalling request from one individual student’s parents, a decision so offensive, it ultimately forced one TA/Coach (Coach Watkins) to resign from his classroom, leaving the children he loved and had devoted his life and career to, all in an effort to withdraw himself from the stressful, toxic environment created by the school’s cowardice and failure stand up for what is right! What message does this treatment send to students? What kind of example does this decision set? To be subjected to (not protected from) such unnecessary heartache and cruelty is unacceptable for any employee, but when we’re talking about two men who performed a demanding job so selflessly and with such great care for so many years, this demeaning treatment is absolutely disgusting.
It makes me think the home that child was raised in is faulty.
Nice article.thanks
@editor – Department in turmoil after “Educator” Complaints?! Why is the TA assigned the blame instead of the parents that made the, at best unreasonable, at worst racist, request? There has to be more to the story, but let’s start with the actual cause of the “turmoil”.
APPALLING AT THE VERY LEAST !
Something about this story is very fishy.
The parent should have been told to find another school
My name is Daryl Anderson, I’ve been a TA at CHHS for over 20 years. This issue is deeply disturbing to me, and it should be equally alarming to every progressive thinker in our community who sides with cosmopolitan equity. The overtones of codified exclusion along with the verbal confirmation of it in an educational venue that “prides” itself as an inclusive safe space for ALL is glaringly hypocritical. To be a black man in our society at large oftentimes leaves us unprotected like George Floyd, and unseen like Ralph Ellison – ‘The Invisible Man.’ We should not be unprotected, unseen, and unvalued in the workplace! More oftentimes than not we are because we are seen as the proletariats of the workplace who are expendable; and make no mistake about it – repressive socialization works. We can do better than this. We must because “ALL LIVES MATTER!”
I have no problem believing this.
What??
Oh, and CH bills itself as so liberal and caring.
It wasn’t driven by the school. It was the District EC Director / Lincoln Center who directed all of this. The school administration doesn’t do anything without being told. It is pretty apparent in the emails.
I was the school nurse at East from 11/19-12/20. I left when the district made the decision to bring back the EC kids (before the general pop kids) at the height of Covid, expected the school nurses to return and would not honor ONE accommodation I requested (after being told that they didn’t want to lose nurses and would make accommodations available). I knew Daryl and he is a wonderful human being. Shame on CHCCS and East for not having the gumption to stand up for Daryl.. I wish I could say these bigoted and horrid actions surprise me but sadly, they don’t.
This is absolutely appalling. So pathetic that the school leadership would bow to such an indefensible, clearly racist request from a parent. I would follow the money on this one — willing to bet the parents are litigious. IMO, both these men should get litigious too. Disgusting that this community is casting away valuable, dedicated TAs to appease BIGOTS. Everyone involved in these events should be deeply ashamed.
Mary, The district EC Director is litigious and has full on policies to deny rights to these families. She never uses any of the tools to resolve issues in the best interest of children and instead escalates everything. She did the same thing in Durham – there is a lawsuit still ongoing and it’s shameful what was done the child and family. In my experience she consistently would tell schools to violate rights of families and then when a complaint arose it was always blamed on the school principal who had only done as told. Why do you think well liked strong principals like dr. Ware and Mr. Proulx leave? Because, like anyone, they don’t like being thrown under the bus. And if a school principal defies Lincoln Center the retaliation is a real thing – just look how the school administrators are being cast in this situation where they followed orders. The Board and Superintendent know all this and do nothing. And look at the email about having a gun to their head. Who was holding that gun?
This is wack macdao and the tale of NINE cities. Truly unforgivable to anyone in charge of this decision. I’ve been protesting against this bizarre decision for the past few days with little closure. I hope justice is served like a plate of buttered noodles at the Cheesecake Factory. Not only does the parents ideology appall me, but whoever made the definitive decision on the schools team are complete embarrassments to their position. Biggie smalls is batman. I hope they not only feel foolish for their actions but embarrassed and ashamed as well. This kind of tomfoolery is intolerable and unacceptable. I hope the person in power who chose to direct action towards the innocent teachers involved steps on their dog’s tail. I. AM. FURRIOSH!!
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