White Colo. Springs students join MLK event
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – Officials at Holmes Middle School said Wednesday they were ending a four-year-old practice of sending a segregated, black only student group to a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.
“We did not consciously intend to segregate students but only wished to serve students that may be most appreciative of the opportunity,” Principal Rob Utter said in an e-mail to The Gazette. “I can acknowledge that we made a mistake. For that, and on behalf of the school, I extend my sincerest apologies.”
A parent had raised the issue in an e-mail sent to the newspaper. Wednesday’s group was all-black.
The school is part of Colorado Springs District 11, which districtwide was allowed to send up to 500 students to Wednesday’s event at City Auditorium. Other schools, which send students of other races to the event, use methods for choosing students such as holding raffles, or sending the first 50 students who returned parent-permission forms.
Colorado Springs’ black population is less than 3 percent, according to the State Demography Office. The dayslong celebration is sponsored annually by the El Paso County Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Committee.
“I think that’s totally fine that the black students have something special for them,” said Judy Brinkman, whose child, a sixth-grader at the school, is white and did not attend the event. “They are certainly a different group of individuals that have a different walk in life, and I think that needs to be recognized.”
Counselor Katie Flamate coordinates the event for the school and said she arrived at the policy of sending blacks only after consulting with other school officials. Only nine schools out of 60 in the district sent students to the event, she said.
“At least our kids had a chance to go, whether they were singled out or maybe our system was not good,” she said. “At least we’re trying. We’re not just getting the e-mail and saying ‘Forget it, we’re busy.'”
The school plans future assemblies so all students can participate.
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