Acting Clarke County School Superintendent Brannon Gaskins said in a letter Tuesday, Jan. 25 that the district is investigating allegations that administrators at Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School compared student artwork celebrating gay rights to a Nazi flag.
After a parent complained about an LGBTQ flag on the door of a fifth-grade teacher’s classroom, assistant principal Sandra Scott noticed pieces of art students had created on their own time—not as part of an assignment—on Pride Week in October and ordered the teacher to take them down. One depicted a rainbow flag with the words, “Gay is OK.”
When the teacher resisted, Scott asked if the teacher would hang a swastika in the classroom. The teacher complained to principal Bipul Singh, who defended the comparison.
Gaskins did not acknowledge the artwork’s removal in his letter, made public by CCSD on Jan. 25.
“It has been alleged that a piece of student artwork was compared to Nazi symbolism. We have investigated the situation and are working to address the issues with all parties involved. To be clear, we condemn this comparison and discrimination in all its forms,” the letter read.
“The Clarke County School District embraces diversity and inclusion for all students and staff. We stand with our LGBTQIA+ community and are dedicated to proving our commitment to diversity and inclusion.
“To that end, we will continue having sensitive and appropriate conversations with our school communities.”
Athens Pride and the Athens Queer Collective released a statement condemning the Oglethorpe administrators’ actions.
“Our schools should be a safe place for all children to thrive. What message has now been sent to our students and their teachers about how safe their school is for LGBTQ+ children?” it said. “We talk often about how inclusive Athens is—we must make sure that inclusiveness is found in the aisles of our businesses and the classrooms in our schools.”
Parents and teachers raised other concerns about Singh’s administration in a December letter obtained by Flagpole to Director of Employee Relations Meridyth Padgett and Executive Director of Leadership Development Kena Worthy, who oversees elementary school principals. One allegation is that Singh has made discriminatory comments toward female and LGBTQ employees and parents, as well as non-native English speaking students.
CCSD Communications Manager Beth Moore said she had not seen that letter and did not know if any action had been taken.
“The letter Mr. Gaskins shared [last Tuesday] with the community is the only comment we have at this time,” she said.
Like what you just read? Support Flagpole by making a donation today. Every dollar you give helps fund our ongoing mission to provide Athens with quality, independent journalism.