After the school buses dropped teens off at Maumelle High School, an announcement came over the loudspeakers instructing all Black freshmen teens to an auditorium for a school assembly. The topic? Gang violence:
LOCAL YOUTH PASTOR DANTE SHELTON SPOKE TO THE STUDENTS ABOUT GANG VIOLENCE AND HIS PERSONAL STORY. ACCORDING TO THE PULASKI COUNTY SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT IT IS PART OF “THE DISTRICT’S COURT-ORDERED DESEGREGATION EFFORTS WHICH ENCOURAGE PROGRAMS AND OPPORTUNITIES TAILORED TO MINORITY STUDENTS.”
Wait, part of their desegregation efforts were to segregate the students by race? Yessir. Arron Perkins says his sister was among those who were forced to attend and they are definitely offended:
“WHAT DOES THAT LEAVE KIDS THAT ARE MIXED? ‘OH, YOU KNOW, THAT’S MY OTHER SIDE THAT’S CALLING, LET ME GO LEARN ABOUT GANG-BANGING.’ TO ME IT’S JUST WRONG ON EVERY LEVEL,” SAID PERKINS WHO IS BIRACIAL.
The Pulaski County Special School District responded to the controversy in an email to KATV:
“YESTERDAY, AT AN ASSEMBLY DURING ACTIVITIES PERIOD AT MAUMELLE HIGH SCHOOL, LOCAL PASTOR DANTE SHELTON WAS INVITED TO SPEAK TO A GROUP OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN, NINTH-GRADE STUDENTS. HE SHARED HIS PERSONAL SUCCESS STORY AND ENCOURAGED STUDENTS TO MAKE GOOD CHOICES. FRESHMEN STUDENTS WERE IDENTIFIED BY THE SCHOOL BECAUSE IT IS A TIME OF TRANSITION WHEN THEY ARE MORE EASILY INFLUENCED. BLACK STUDENTS WERE SELECTED WITH THE INTENT THAT THE ASSEMBLY WOULD BE AN EXTENSION OF THE DISTRICT’S COURT-ORDERED DESEGREGATION EFFORTS, WHICH ENCOURAGE PROGRAMS AND OPPORTUNITIES TAILORED TO MINORITY STUDENTS. STUDENTS WHO DID NOT WANT TO ATTEND THE PROGRAM WERE NOT REQUIRED TO DO SO, AND THE RESPONSE TO MR. SHELTON’S PRESENTATION WAS OVERWHELMINGLY POSITIVE. THE PULASKI COUNTY SPECIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT REGRETS THAT THIS INSPIRATIONAL PROGRAM WAS NOT MADE AVAILABLE TO ALL STUDENTS AND IN THE FUTURE WILL WORK TO ENSURE THAT WHEN OUTSIDE SPEAKERS ARE BROUGHT INTO A SCHOOL THAT ALL STUDENTS ARE INCLUDED.”
The Pulaski County Special School District said events like these are (currently) common in the district. The ACLU of Arkansas sent the school a letter, asking for assurances this will never happen again. See the interview (below) with a thoughtful and rightfully outraged Arron Perkins from KATV: