PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The local chapter of the NAACP attended the Pender County Board of Education meeting Tuesday night, stepping in over an investigation into alleged racial slurs used by educators.
The meeting attracted a crowd, with more than a dozen people signing up to speak before the board.
“We will not have our students labeled or called the n-word,” said Pender County NAACP President Reverend Dante Murphy.
He says the board ignored allegations of school staff using racist slurs against students until a recent post on Facebook by an employee gained traction.
Others say this has been going on for a long time.
“Its been something that’s going on for years, this is not no new incident,” said Pender County parent Erica London. “I’ve had two cousins in class be called the n-word in front of a teacher and nothing happened.”
More than a dozen people showed up to the protest outside the meeting with 14 signing up to speak. However, once it was announced that only 10 could come into the auditorium due to COVID-19 restrictions, the meeting was paused as the sheriff spoke to the board behind closed doors.
“When we don’t know how many people are coming, we don’t know how much space to allow for,” said Board of Education Chair Don Hall.
But attendees say the board knew they were coming.
“We waited nearly two hours for a decision to be reached about our attendance inside this meeting tonight,” said protester and former Pender County Commissioner Jimmy Tate. “At the very least, that should have been organized before tonight.”
Eventually, those still present were able to speak. Murphy denounced the board’s decision to hire the Raleigh law firm Blue LLP to investigate the alleged racism, saying it is a waste of taxpayer money.
“The school board has the power to subpoena witnesses and find out what happened, who said what, who done what,” Murphy said. “They have that power and it doesn’t cost them anything.”
Murphy also argues that hiring an outside attorney gives the board attorney client privilege. Board Chair Don Hall disagrees.
“I’m not an investigator, that’s not my specialty,” Hall said. “We don’t have anyone else on the board that is either. Quite frankly, when we participate in the school system here, the idea of the third party is so there will be no bias.”
The NAACP is calling for superintendent Dr. Steven Hill to be terminated. Hall says no action will be taken until the investigation is complete.
“We operate off of facts, not Facebook,” he said.
The federal office for civil rights has also been contacted to investigate. Hall says there is currently no timeline for either investigation, but that they should begin soon.