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  • Erin Elizabeth

My Children and I were Kicked Out of Our School

Updated: Jun 20

March 31, 2019 is when I was hand delivered a letter from the president of the board of the school my 3 kids were attending in Charlotte, NC stating that I was furthering white supremacy values and that I was a danger to all people of color.


A few hours later, the directors of my children's school sent an email to the entire school community stating the same thing.


Yes, you read that correctly.....


Let's back up shall we.....so that I can share our experience in it's entirety.


Before I go any further, I want to make clear that this has been a hard decision for myself whether or not to share our experience. Part of the reason is because my children are involved, and this was a very hard and confusing time for them. They were traumatized in how the school chose to react, and we had many, many days and nights of tears. Part of their hurt was that their story was never heard in it's entirety, protocol was not followed and the director of the school sent them a text message (after were we kicked out) stating to them that it was my (their mom) 'fault' that they were kicked out furthering the confusion and hurt.


When people aren't seen and heard in their own experiences, disconnect happens. We are one race with different expressions, and all of them are valid and we all deserve to be heard and seen in our experiences without a label or judgement being placed on it.


So here is what happened:


Three days before I was hand delivered the letter, on March 28th, my kids and I were picking up dinner at a local sushi place in Charlotte when I received a call from one of the directors of the school telling me that one of the moms at the school was going to be giving me a call because of an incident that happened earlier that day. I was told that my daughter said the 'N' word around a student of color.


One month before this happened, the school scheduled a mandatory meeting to talk about the use of electronics at the school. A couple hours before the meeting one of the directors e-mailed the school community and decided to change the structure of the meeting so that we could talk about implementing a racial awareness initiative. Two women that were also on the board of the school lead a talk on racism and the history and use of the 'N' word.


During the meeting we were instructed to form into small groups and talk about our own experiences with white privilege, racism, and how our influences growing up formed our beliefs around this. I chose to observe the others in the group that were sharing but didn't feel comfortable sharing my experiences in that moment - partly because I wasn't prepared to do so because the meeting originally was intended to be around the use of technology for the students. I felt that there was a lack of integrity on the part of the directors to switch the topic of the meeting last minute. I am a person that needs time to integrate my own thoughts and emotions before sharing. I was told later, by the president of the school board that because I chose not to share within my small group, that it was interpreted that I was not on board with their policies.


Ok....back to the evening of March 28th: I received a phone call from the mother of the other student and she proceeded to tell me that she was not happy with what happened earlier in the day and that my daughter, saying the 'N' word had traumatized her son because my daughter is white and her son is black. It's not like my daughter to just randomly and flippantly say the 'N' word as I don't allow that word in my house, so I asked the other mother what the context was because I was genuinely curious about what happened and hearing the entire series of events. She proceeded to tell me that context doesn't matter and asked me what I was going to do about this. I told her that I was going to talk with my daughter so that I could understand the situation better. She then proceeded to tell me that her son was no longer welcome in my home, and that I was a danger to people of color and that I was racist. I told her that I understood what she was saying and I let her speak what she felt she needed to say. Before this time, he had spent many days and nights at our house as our kids were good friends.


I talked to my kids about it and what happened earlier that day was this: My daughter, son and two other students (one of them being the son of the mother that called me) went off campus to walk to a small grocery store across the street from the school. The son of the mother that called me asked my son to pull up a video on a social media network. The person in that video said the 'N' word. One of the other students in the group couldn't hear what was being said and asked my daughter what the video had said, and she repeated the phrase, using the 'N' word. My daughter immediately apologized to her friend for repeating that word and he told her that it was OK and that it was an accident. All of the kids were laughing and seemingly having a nice time together.


Shortly after my phone call with the boy's mother and talking with my kids about what had happened I received a text message from the director of the school telling me that Ireland should stay home from school the next day. I was upset by the unprofessional nature of the communication and was clear about that to the directors. What school sends a text message to a mother basically telling them that their child is suspended and shouldn't come to school?


I told them that I would not communicate this way and at the very least, it deserved a phone call. Shortly thereafter I received a call from them and they did not want to hear from anyone else what had happened, Ireland was to stay home the following day and that was that. By this time, I was irate in the manner of which this was being handled. Protocol at their school was to have a conversation with a mediator when there was an incident. This wasn't the case in this situation and I told the directors that I didn't support the way they were handling this....meanwhile my daughter is on the floor in tears. I, as a mother and a human being, do not support saying the 'N' word AND what I heard in the situation that happened was that 4 children were off campus and found themselves in a situation where a video was being played that contained the 'N' word, one of the children asked what was being said, and my daughter repeated it - using the 'N' word. I'm in NO WAY excusing her saying that. What I am saying is that she made a mistake as human beings do, and she OWNED her mistake and apologized to her friend that she genuinely cared for. She made sure he felt safe with her and he confirmed that it was a mistake and he forgave her. This was a self-directed school which promotes real world learning and allowing the children to direct themselves in real world situations.


On that Friday, my daughter did end up going to school as the director told my daughter that the other student was not there that day so she could attend. My daughter LOVED her school. Not going for a day was not a treat for her as she was on a few different committees at the school, she handled part of the school budget (the directors would come to her at times and ask her, a 14 year old, how much money they had in different accounts), and she was in charge of the childcare after school as many families depended on her to care for their children.


Saturday afternoon the school was having a community event where all were invited to come. I pulled into the parking lot and as I got out of my car was met by 4 people, one of them being the president of the board. I was asked to leave and told I was not welcome there.


On Sunday morning the director of the school asked to come over to talk and to hear from my daughter and myself. She asked me if I would be willing to have a conversation with all parties involved and I said 'of course' as it's what I was originally requesting. I did have one condition, and that was this: I said that I would not have a conversation if my daughter was already going to be pegged as the perpetrator and the other student as the victim. True connection cannot be had if we enter into any conversation in those roles. True connection can be had if all parties agree to hear and see each other fully and hold space for each others experiences.


A few hours later the president of the board hand delivered the letter to my home. It stated that I was furthering white supremacy values within my family and that I was a danger to people of color. My children were not allowed on the school campus any longer and that if they needed to gather their things they would need to be escorted onto the property by a staff member.


There were other events that happened between Thursday and Sunday and those can be discussed if the opportunity arises but in an attempt to keep this to the point, I spoke on the main parts of this experience.


My intention in sharing this isn't to have anybody feel sorry for myself and my kids....it happened and we have all grown a lot from it. I faced myself in a way that I've never had to before. I had to ask myself the questions about race and white supremacy that a lot of people are only addressing now, it's necessary. I also know that how this was handled was wrong. We were not allowed to have a conversation with all parties involved, this situation involved children and the children's voices were never heard in their entirety. Compassion, understanding and acceptance were not allowed to play out. Judgement and condemnation were what was demonstrated by the school and the few people on the board.


This was made to be a race issue because on the surface that's what it was only seen as. I wonder what could have happened if we all would have been able to rise above each other and see each other as humans, who choose to understand and accept each other - mistakes and all.


I wonder what could have happened if our hearts could have been open?


My intention in this comes from my heart and it's about the breakdown of human connection due to unhealed trauma and wounding. In my experience with this situation and what I'm seeing in the collective is that when people are in positions of power and control and there are unhealed wounds of shame, worthiness, guilt, inability to value ourselves, unacknowledgement of self, self hatred, etc. those inner wounds are projected out to others.


I also feel the need to express that the more we choose labels the more we divide. The more we acknowledge our differences and honor them and SEE and HEAR others in their own experience and not negate it because it isn't ours the more we can come together in love and connection!


It's taken a lot to talk about this for myself because every time I would try to acknowledge the hurt and pain that my children and I felt, I was told that my emotions were because of my white fragility and my experience was negated.


I believe that we are one race with different expressions of uniqueness and individuality. These different expressions need to be and should be acknowledged, honored and accepted fully.


Shaming others doesn't allow for healing, condemning others doesn't allow for true connection - and the degree we are shaming and condemning another is the degree that we are doing it to ourselves.


We are being asked to face ourselves in ways that we never have before, we are being asked by the universe to take a look at all of the parts of ourselves that make up our whole. When we negate ourselves we negate others. When we cannot emotionally hold space for another persons experiences, it reflects back on our own emotional vulnerability with ourselves.


When we are fixated on the surface issues we don't see what's underneath, causing those surface issues. Are we willing to dive into the depths within ourselves, to hold space and fully accept every nook and cranny that comes up within ourselves?


We are disconnected within ourselves and therefore humanity is disconnected.....nothing will heal this divide until we face and heal ourselves with love, compassion and ultimately acceptance.


Like I said earlier, writing this has been a challenge and also very cathartic. I wonder what it could be like to live in a world where we can hold space for all people, listen to each others experiences no matter what we look like, no matter our background, no matter our religion, ethnicity or spoken tongue in order to acknowledge and validate the human being that is standing right in front of us?


I wonder what it could look like to give other humans the benefit of the doubt and instead of immediately condemning and judging, we ask more questions to gain clarity?


I wonder what else is possible that we haven't considered yet?





Peace,

Erin

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© 2023 by Erin Esser