The Athens City School District Board of Education passed a resolution Thursday supporting Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) families in the district after a fifth grader received a forbidding email from another student.
Several parents of students in the Athens City School District and members of the Athens community addressed the Board on the issue wherein a student sent an Asian-American student a message with the subject line “You will die soon.”
School leaders’ investigation into the email found that it was “a joke” delivered to the wrong person. Fan Jiang, the mother of the email’s recipient, told the Board she felt it was “far beyond just an inappropriate email” and noted that she and her family had feared the message was sent with threatening intent.
She and other speakers highlighted recent acts of violence against AAPI people, such as the March shooting at an Atlanta, Georgia spa that left eight people dead.
She called for the adoption of protocol to better communicate with parents of investigations involving student misconduct, as well as the incorporation of diversity and inclusion components in curriculum.
Other parents spoke in support of the Jiang family, calling for the review of the district’s email system and the incorporation of additional diversity and inclusion education components into the district’s curriculum.
Liana Flores and Grace Sikopokoo, members of the group “Athens Parents 4 Racial Equity” (also known as AP4RE), read a statement to the Board:
“We are sure you will agree that parents need to feel supported if their children are to receive the best educational experience possible,” the letter read. “Yet, time and time again, our group receives reports directly from parents who feel the district has pacified and dismissed concerns related to their child’s experience. This often shows up through incomplete lines of communication regarding the investigation and lack of updates and follow through with all parties on the status of the incident.”
The group noted its desire for the district to include a “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Policy” in the district’s handbook and Student Code of Conduct.
The Board read a statement in support of AAPI students and families during the meeting — the full statement of which was written into the meeting agenda.
“We are committed to building and supporting a school community that demonstrates the value of every child and celebrates their diverse identities,” the statement said. “We fully condemn hate speech, racism, and all forms of discrimination. As equity is a driving force of our district mission, we will continue to strive to build a positive school culture that is both inclusive and nurturing for all learners.”
Athens City Schools Supt. Tom Gibbs also updated the Board that construction of the district’s pre-K-3 buildings is nearing completion and on track.
Students in pre-K through third grade will attend the new buildings next school year, Gibbs said.
The upcoming East Elementary attendance area, or the sector of town where students live, will include students currently living in the existing East attendance area, the existing West attendance area, and other rural space near the Amesville area.
The Morrison-Gordon building will include the existing Morrison-Gordon attendance area and The Plains, as well as students living along Route 33 toward Nelsonville.
Fourth and fifth grade students will attend the West building, and students in the sixth grade will attend Athens Middle School, Gibbs said. Students in sixth grade will also be on the middle school schedule next school year.
The renovation of The Plains elementary school will be completed this summer.