Last week, there was a single race assembly at Bunnell Elementary School, where African American children in specific grades were pulled aside, regardless of test scores, and told that if their scores didn’t improve, they could go to jail, get shot or die young.
When parents of the children involved heard from their kids about this happening, they were outraged and took to social media where the community banded together in outrage over something like this happening in Flagler County.
The principal of Bunnell Elementary School has been placed on leave pending investigation, and during a press conference with the Flagler County School Board Members and Interim Superintendent LaShakia Moorem, apologies were made.
Vice Chair Massaro stated on record, “The district does not in any way support the activity that took place of Bunnell Elementary school. There are no excuses, and we extend our apologies. If we had known about it, it would not have happened.”
Interim Superintendent Lashakia Moore issued an apology to all the students, families and schools. “It shouldn’t have happened, but it did.” Moore stated she is going to look into why it happened as well as investigate the situation fully. This year’s theme is Flagler Forward and that includes all students. She continued to apologize and state that there will be actionable actions.
During the unfolding of these events, we had the opportunity to talk to Pastor Jearlyn Dennie, who is involved in the community, working to make it a better place.
It was during this conversation with Pastor Jearlyn that we learned this issue is one that hits very close to her. She told us about her own struggles as a child during a time where issues like these were common. Her own mother fought hard to ensure teachers were actively teaching her as a child. Fast forward to a time when Jearlyn’s children were in school, and she had fought against similar prejudices while raising her own family. Jearlyn’s children all graduated from Bunnell Elementary, and her own granddaughter currently attends Bunnell Elementary.
Pastor Jearlyn told us that while she was angry, she felt God calling her to take a different path. It was at this time she told us about the initiative and non-profit she is currently launching, called ‘I am 13914’. The idea behind the initiative is to provide children with a positive number. The number 13914 stands for Psalms 139:14, which states, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” She went on explaining that instead of giving them numbers with negative meanings, God told her to give them a number with a positive and empowering meaning.
This initiative and organization will be a national organization that will provide children with positivity instead of negativity, as well as future classes, tutoring, therapeutic services, and the ‘511’.
The 511 is based off of 1st Thessalonians 5:11, which states, “ Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Pastor Jearlyn invisions a board where people can leave voice messages, videos, texts, letters and other forms of encouraging words for students.
Pastor Jearlyn has also been present at Bunnell Elementary School to pray over the grounds and the situation, as well as holding up signs to encourage the children. One sign said “I like your skin” on one side, while the other said “You’re Beautiful”.
While the School Board and Interim Superintendent have spoken out against what happened, the investigation in the entire incident is ongoing. There will be updates to follow as the investigation unfolds.