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Columbia Public Schools

Rock Bridge High School alum speak about perceived racism


The Columbia Board of Education met for the first time Monday since a recording that was allegedly between a teacher and a student at Rock Bridge High School surfaced on Twitter.

In the recording, the student claims a teacher called him a racial slur.

The in-person meeting took place at 6:45 p.m. at the Aslin Administration building.

Watch a playback of the meeting below

Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the recording is from four years ago and was investigated at the time.

In a statement Baumstark said in part, "Please know that personnel information and personnel investigations are, by law, not public. We do intend to review the details of the investigation that was previously conducted."

Discussions about racism at Rock Bridge High School began after Janylah Thomas created a Facebook post asking people to share their experiences with racism at the school. It received more than 1,000 comments.

"When I made that thread it was because I was told racism pretty much doesn't really exist, it's something that black people make up, you know, to pretty much whine about," Thomas said.

She said the response confirms students and staff experience racism at the high school.

"I posted my experience not expecting to get as many responses but the fact that I did get a lot of response, it was very disheartening," she said.

Thomas spoke to the board of education, and gave several recommendations for ways they could help mitigate the problem.

She told the board she would like them to put into place an equity plan that would outline how teachers could combat racism in the classroom.

She also said the board should create a community advisory committee who could speak with students of color about their experiences.

"Making sure they feel cared for and loved for in the school. That's really important for us," she said.

Lastly, she suggested student council representatives should be made up of representatives from each club in the school.

"Right now it's a bunch of white kids that are making a bunch of decisions for this whole entire school that's supposed to be very diverse," Thomas said.

Several other former students of Rock Bridge High School came forward to speak about their own experiences at the school.

Prince Chingarande from the class of 2016 came forward with a list of demands, and spoke about an experience he had on his first day at the school when one of his teachers made a comment in front of the entire class.

"Hello guys, this is Prince our new student from Africa. If you could all please help him with the technology because they don't have any there," Chingarande said.

Chingarande and Thomas said faculty and staff have not addressed the issue, and have often ignored it.

Chingarande came forward with a list of demands, including asking the district to disclose their teacher hiring and accountability process, and for lines to be redrawn to prevent segregation in Columbia schools, among other things.

The principal at Rock Bridge High School held a video conference with student concerned about racism at the school on Sunday.

The district says Superintendent Peter Stiepleman will also follow up with students at a later date.

Boone / Columbia / Education / News / Top Stories

Sydney Olsen

Sydney Olsen reports in the evenings during the week and on the weekend.


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