Parents claim racism at Head Start

Bay St. Louis

Parents of children who attend the Bay-Waveland Head Start voiced a litany of complaints about the preschool this week, the most serious being accusations that the predominantly African-American staff and administration is racially discriminating against white students and employees.
About 20 parents attended a parent-teacher meeting Wednesday evening at the school on Necaise Avenue.
Also in attendance were officials from Mississippi Action For Progress (MAP), the group which administers the Head Start program in the state.
Parent Council President Daryl Sauerwin said parents had several complaints they wanted the state officials to hear.
The complaints included allegations staff members had acted in an unprofessional manner, the facility was not always adequately cleaned, there is insufficient communication between staff and parents, inadequate food and nutrition, and updating rules and guidelines for the school.
He said he has received seven letters from parents who claim that certain white students and staff members are treated differently because of their race.
Sauerwin did not elaborate on what the exact allegations against the staff and administration were, but others did.
“Another staff member told me that she did not want to work with no little white girl,” a former employee said Thursday. “They definitely have their favorites and they find ways to get rid of people. I was very intimidated.”
One white employee was allegedly dismissed because he had a small hole in his pants and another was fired because she wore open-toed shoes, the former employee said.
Another parent said black children are given preferential treatment by staff members and staff members openly joke and speak about Caucasians in a negative way.
Sauerwin said MAP was asked to attend the meeting when attempts to solve the issues with the school administration apparently fell on “deaf ears.”
“We feel like these issues need to be addressed,” he said. “We cannot pinpoint why it is happening, but there are very serious allegations here.
“It got to this level because we felt our complaints were stopped.”
MAP official Dorothy Foster confirmed that her agency has received the discrimination complaints and promised an investigation.
“We are not going to talk about who is doing what right now,” she said. “Those are personnel issues and we have policies to deal with personnel issues. Once we have a complaint we are obligated to investigate it and look at what may be going on. We have a lot of liability when it comes to dealing with your babies.”
Not all of the parents in attendance were opposed to the staff.
Wendy Kirby said two of the teachers have been great for her son.
“We love the teachers,” Kirby said. “They take their time with my son and help him get through when he is having a bad day.”
Kirby said her only problem with the school was communication and the fact that parents are not being allowed to talk with the teachers on a regular basis.
Foster said she believes better communication is the key to having a successful program.
“We are going to make sure we open the lines of communication,” she said. “We want this center to be run just like the other 54 centers. We need you to work with us for the children.”
MAP runs 54 Head Start programs across the state, Foster said.
Although MAP is not an official state agency, it receives funding from the U.S. Department of Human Services, and receives assistance from the state and local school districts.
Bay-Waveland School District Attorney Ronnie Artigues said Thursday that special education teachers provide services to the Head Start program here, but it is a separate entity.

BY: Dwayne Bremer

The Sea Coast Echo

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