School & District Management

Principal Apologizes for Saying White Students Should Be in the Same Class

By Denisa R. Superville — April 24, 2017 2 min read
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A Florida principal who raised eyebrows when she said that white students should be in the same class in a predominantly black school has apologized for her “poor judgment,” but could still face disciplinary action, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Christine Hoffman, an elementary school principal in the Pinellas County school system, emailed staff at Campbell Park Elementary School last week with instructions for creating class lists for the next school year, the paper reported.

Some of her directions included having the same number of boys and girls, students who read at different levels, and a maximum of two students who regularly misbehaved in the same class, the paper reported.

But it was the line that white students should be in the same class that raised eyebrows. That drew a rebuke from the local chapter of the NAACP and others.

Forty-nine of the school’s 606 students are white, the paper noted. The school also has 20 Hispanic students, 18 multi-racial students, and three Asians, and the email did not mention those students, according to the paper.

The paper reported that the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is investigating allegations that the district disproportionately disciplines black students and that black students lacked the same access to quality teachers, curriculum and other resources. Campbell Park, one of the five neighborhood elementary schools that were the focus of the Tampa Bay Times award-winning investigation “Failure Factories, was among the schools listed in the federal review, according to WFLA.

The district is also working through state and federal lawsuits alleging district discrimination against black students.

Hoffman, who is white, is an experienced administrator in Pinellas but is new to Campbell Park. The school has struggled academically for years, the paper said. She served as an assistant principal in another predominantly black school before moving to Campbell Park.

She said in an email apology that she was using the incident “as an opportunity to learn.” Hoffman said she was not asking for a class in which all the white students would be together, but that there not be a class with one white student, the paper reported.

“I was not asking that all white student in each grade be clustered, as that is not our practice in creating class lists,” she wrote, according to the paper. “I understand how racially insensitive the guideline was.”

[UPDATE (04/25): The Tampa Bay Times reported that Hoffman asked the district for a transfer and she will not return to Campbell Park. The district is also conducting a review, the paper reported.]

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.