City DopeNews

Tape, Video Released in Athens Elementary School Anti-LGBTQ Allegations

The attorney for an Athens teacher and parents whose student’s rainbow artwork was removed and compared to a Nazi flag released a video and audio recording he said bolsters their case against Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School administrators.

On his Facebook page, Jeffrey Jackson posted a recording and transcript of the teacher’s meeting with principal Bipul Singh. The principal said his concern with the artwork was that “we are kind of OK-ing one sexual preference and then causing others to have this dialogue right now.” He told the teacher to move the artwork to her desk area or give it back to the student.

Singh also defended vice principal Sandra Scott’s swastika comparison by urging the teacher to research the symbol’s history. 

A surveillance video Jackson obtained through an open records request and also posted online shows balloons being delivered to the Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary lobby and Singh using scissors to pop the balloons. An invoice and photo of the attached card show that the balloons, delivered on Jan. 28, were in support of the students’ “Gay is OK” artwork.

Meanwhile, the Clarke County Board of Education held a called meeting on Feb. 2 to discuss diversity and equity policies, apparently in response to the incident, although it was never directly addressed. Chief Academic Officer and Acting Superintendent Brannon Gaskins, who earlier in the week issued a second statement on the incident, said that Local School Governance Teams, elected by parents to give input on school-level policy, receive diversity training before interviewing principal candidates. The district also uses an “equitable hiring tool… to make sure we’re being equitable and recognize bias in our hiring,” he said. In addition, CCSD is revamping its student code of conduct, Gaskins said.

At the school board’s regularly scheduled work session Feb. 3, Gaskins did briefly address “what has happened at Oglethorpe Elementary over the past two weeks.” He said he met with staff at a faculty meeting and “sincerely apologized for the pain this has caused our school community, and the student and the family that was impacted by this.” He also said that administrators had one-on-one interviews with the staff to “discuss the climate and the culture at the school.” A meeting will be set up with Athens Pride to “partner with them on some training for our staff,” he added.

In addition, Director of Planning and Construction John Gilbreath gave an update on ESPLOST 6, the sales tax-funded school construction program voters reauthorized last November. The final ESPLOST 5 projects—early learning classrooms at the old Gaines Elementary, a fieldhouse at Cedar Shoals High School and a culinary kitchen at the Career Academy—will wrap up this fall, next spring and next fall, respectively. The first ESPLOST 6 project will be a new $35 million-plus Clarke Middle School, which is expected to go out for bid this year and be completed in fall of 2024. It will be followed by renovations to Cedar Shoals, then projects at Gaines, Alps Road and Cleveland Road elementary school in the first tier of projects. The second tier will include new school buses and upgrades to technology, kitchen, custodial and security equipment. The 1% sales tax is projected to raise $130 million over five years.