Atlanta charter school teacher suspended after students’ blackface performance


A Kindezi Schools teacher deemed responsible for a second-grade black history month performance in which the students held blackface masks has been suspended without pay for a month.

Rachelle Clay, a teacher at the Old Fourth Ward charter school who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, will serve the suspension from April 12 to May 14. The school’s principal Gilberte Pascal and eight other teachers will receive letters of reprimand, according to documents obtained Friday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

The discipline follows a March 29 program that included students reciting Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We Wear the Mask” while holding up the controversial masks, which mimicked the look of makeup worn by white minstrel show performers beginning around the 1830s. The production was “not done with ill intent” but “demonstrated a significant lack of professional judgement,” wrote Kindezi executive director Dean Leeper in a letter to school families. 

The school’s internal investigation found that some members of the second-grade team had reservations about the use of the masks but did not make their positions known to Clay or administrators. One person did not allow her students to wear the masks in rehearsal, though they were worn by students during the performance, sparking outrage from some parents and a viral video recording on social media.

Earlier this week, Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen called for the charter school that operates within the Atlanta Public Schools district to hand out “appropriate consequences.” An APS spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Kindezi’s investigation. 


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Education

DeKalb Schools: Bus drivers could stage sick-out
DeKalb Schools: Bus drivers could stage sick-out

DeKalb County School District bus drivers may not show up to take your child to school Thursday. District officials said they are aware the drivers may stage a sickout -- calling in sick for work to send a message to district leadership -- and are preparing parents for the possibility. Parents are expected to receive a phone call from the district...
Remembering Barbara Bush’s controversial commencement speech
Remembering Barbara Bush’s controversial commencement speech
In 1990, the AJC sent me to Wellesley College in Massachusetts to cover then First Lady Barbara Bush’s commencement appearance, which had sparked a lot of controversy.  Seniors at the prestigious women’s college had voted for “Color Purple” author and Georgia native Alice Walker as their first choice of commencement speaker...
Deal appoints two Georgia Power execs to state boards
Deal appoints two Georgia Power execs to state boards

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced Wednesday that he’s appointed two Georgia Power executives to two of the state’s most influential boards. Paul Bowers, who had been on the Georgia Board of Regents, was appointed to the Georgia Ports Authority. Deal appointed Chris Cummiskey to fill the vacancy on the Board of Regents. Bowers is the...
#Beychella performance fueled by metro Atlanta influence
#Beychella performance fueled by metro Atlanta influence

Beyoncé’s HBCU-inspired Coachella performance included band members who live and work in metro Atlanta. Social media blew up as Beyoncé began her history-making turn as Coachella’s first black headliner. Viewers across metro Atlanta soon learned they knew many of those in her band, and behind their moves. The band was...
Highest Georgia court won’t hear 2 ex-APS educators’ appeals
Highest Georgia court won’t hear 2 ex-APS educators’ appeals

The Supreme Court of Georgia will not hear appeals of two former Atlanta Public Schools educators convicted three years ago in a districtwide cheating conspiracy. The supreme court on Monday rejected Tamara Cotman and Angela Williamson’s petitions for an appeal, meaning that an August ruling from the Georgia Court of Appeals that upheld their...
More Stories