Lexington-Fayette NAACP officials are asking that parents of Lexington Catholic High School students attend a three-part series on “white privilege, racial hatred” and racial bias, and that students attend a semester-long class on racial history.
In the wake of allegations of racial harassment, discrimination and other incidents at the school, NAACP officials and attorney Rebecca Ballard DiLoreto of Lexington’s Institute for Compassion in Justice provided more details to the Herald-Leader on requests they had made last week to Bishop John Stowe of the Catholic Diocese of Lexington. The groups met again Thursday.
DiLoreto said NAACP officials want to clarify that their “proposal was not concerned with diversity training but rather education about white privilege, racial hatred and the way racial bias serves those who held and want to retain economic power.”
“White privilege is about a socio-economic system built upon ... racial differences to protect the social and financial status of those identified as white people,” DiLoreto told the Herald-Leader. “The Catholic Church has the goal of universal outreach. By its nature, it must be diverse and inclusive. ... The information that has been published about what has occurred at LCH reflects that all associated with the school need to be more fully educated about ... racially imbued attitudes. ... An institution like LCH can either choose to educate and advocate in accord with the Catholic Church’s belief in the equal and inherent dignity of all persons or it can work to protect white privilege.”
DiLoreto said that at a meeting last week, Stowe was given proposals. The document that included the proposals said parents taking the course on white privilege would gain an understanding of what white privilege is, “seeing it in yourselves and your life structure, working to eradicate it from your life and from the Lexington Catholic community.”
In addition, NAACP officials are asking that Lexington Catholic students take a semester-long course on racial history that covers U.S. history, economics and Kentucky’s history, economic and political system.
Administration and faculty should attend both the program and course, the document said.
NAACP officials said that Lexington Catholic High’s athletic program should undergo an audit or investigation with terms agreed to by the NAACP that includes “uncovering its recruitment of black youth, perpetuation of stereotypes based on attitudes of white superiority, failure to consider needs of students of color and the breeding of an imbedded racist belief system within the school community.”
William Saunders, president of the Lexington-Fayette NAACP, and the group’s vice president, Adrian Wallace, told the Herald-Leader that during the meeting, they asked for the resignation of the school’s principal, Sally Stevens, and its president, Steve Angelucci.
Saunders said Stevens and Angelucci have mishandled recent incidents.
Prior to Thursday, in response to all of the earlier proposals, Stowe issued a statement that said, “The bishop welcomed the opportunity to meet with the NAACP and hopes that they can be a resource in moving forward against the remnants of racism.”
Wallace said at the meeting Thursday between NAACP officials and Stowe, NAACP officials told the Bishop of another of the group’s intentions.
Wallace provided the Herald-Leader with a document he said was given to Stowe Thursday that said the NAACP is prepared to pursue justice through accreditation agencies, including the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Kentucky Department of Education, Education Professional Standards Board and the Office of Civil Rights “while also making it abundantly clear that minorities in Lexington, Kentuck,y should unquestionably avoid sending their children to Lexington Catholic High School.”
Tom Shaughnessy, a spokesman for the diocese, said before the meeting Thursday that Stowe would not be making a statement afterward, “as this is not a public meeting.”
Lexington Catholic officials did not return phone calls earlier this week, but last week Angelucci released a statement that said, “We want to reiterate in the strongest way possible that we will investigate the incidents, complaints and concerns that students or their parents bring to our attention and take appropriate action.”
After the first case, Angelucci had said the school planned to implement diversity and sensitivity training. He also said, “We offer our apologies to the student and family impacted by this.”
Earlier this month, Stowe issued a statement that said, “The Diocese of Lexington will not tolerate racism in any of its institutions or ministries and will work to root out remnants of racist attitudes and thinking wherever it is encountered.”
Amos Jones, a Washington, D.C., civil rights attorney who is originally from Lexington, said last week he is now representing five former Lexington Catholic students who allege separate incidents, including harassment and assault.
Jones has been representing a student who said he was harassed by teammates on Lexington Catholic’s football team. Investigators said the harassment was racially motivated, and a 17-year-old boy was charged April 7 with harassing communications and third-degree terroristic threatening.
In that case, The Key Newsjournal reported that Denisha Vinegar found threatening messages to her son on his computer. Vinegar told the Newsjournal the messages included a threat of lynching and comments telling her son to pick cotton or sell crack to make money.
Jones told the Herald-Leader that the second case involved a black student who withdrew from the school after a string of incidents that culminated in the student being pushed in the cafeteria by a white student.
The third student retaining Jones is a white girl who sought representation because of the school’s handling of her allegation that she was sexually assaulted by two white students at a chaperoned off-campus event, he said. The last two people who retained Jones, he said, were white female students who said they were sexually harassed.