Investigation Launched After Elementary School Targets Black Students for Poor Test Scores in Florida

A Florida Elementary school principal has resigned after district officials launched an investigation into her actions that reportedly targeted black students over poor test scores.

Donelle Evensen, the principal of Bunnell Elementary School, resigned after being sent on a paid leave pending an investigation into an assembly she had organized, which reportedly targeted fourth and fifth-grade black students.

The Controversial Assembly Targeting Black Students

In August 2023, Evensen and an unnamed teacher organized an assembly that focused on improving test scores.

Parents informed Fox35 that the school targeted the black students, removed them from classrooms, and directed them to the cafeteria. The school allegedly showcased top-performing students in the cafeteria and presented them as role models for the black students to emulate. 

Discussing the student test scores before the assembly was organized, some teachers reportedly proposed awarding the best-performing students’ gift cards to fast-food restaurants to inspire the rest to improve their test scores.

Flagler County Schools board chair Cheryl Massaro also confirmed that these students were “isolated” for the assembly.

The Assembly Did Not Meet School Expectations

“Sometimes, when you try to think “outside the box,” you forget why the box is there,” Interim Superintendent LaShakia Moore said in a written statement, adding that the principal went overboard in organizing a special assembly despite having good intentions.

“While the desire to help this particular subgroup of students is to be commended, how this was done does not meet the expectations we desire among Flagler Schools,” Moore said.

The Superintendent also affirmed in a statement that the school district wants parents and guardians to participate actively in the student’s educational success, admitting that the parents were “not properly engaged” in the plans to raise the students’ scores.

“From this point forward, all of our schools will engage our parents, no matter what group or subgroup their children may be in, in our continued efforts to raise achievement among all students.” 

Following the controversial incident, the district suspended Evensen and the unnamed teacher responsible for organizing the assembly and put them on paid administrative leave.

The investigations into the assembly ended in the second week of September, according to school officials.

An Unprecedented Resignation

The troubled principal later informed the Flagler Schools Superintendent of her intention to quit her job after what was first regarded as “thinking outside of the box” by some district officials was deemed an act of segregation. 

Her resignation was gladly welcomed by the parents of the affected students, with one of them saying she was pleased that the principal would no longer be at the school.

“Regardless whether she resigned or terminated, as long as she’s not at the school, I’m okay with it,” said parent Jacinda Arrington, whose fourth grader was among the assembled students.

Following the resignation, Moore reinstated the school’s former principal, Marcus Sanfilippo, to serve as the interim head of the institution.

The Superintendent also urged anyone with a question concerning the incident to contact the school’s principal or herself. 

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This article was produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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