School Offers 'White Student Support Circle' After Derek Chauvin Verdict

The superintendent of a Bay Area school has called an email that the school sent to its students encouraging a "white student support circle" in the wake of the Derek Chauvin verdict "a poor choice of words."

Randall Brooker, Superintendent, Piedmont Unified School District, was responding a video that went viral purporting to show an email from Cheryl Wozniak, the school's assistant superintendent, informing pupils about "student support circle" for white pupils, following the trial verdict on 20 April.

The email read: "We are offering a restorative community circle next Thursday, April 29, from 3:30-4:30 to support White students who would like to discuss how the trial, verdict, and experiences related to the George Floyd murder are impacting you.

"Ms. Jean and Ms. Ina will be holding a space for our white students to process, share, and listen to one another," it continued.

The email later quotes civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

@sueyd_

Make this viral that’s all I gotta say ❤️✅ #GeorgeFloyd#greenscreen #viral @stunnasly

♬ original sound - Sueyd_

Chauvin, a white man, was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis on May 25 last year after kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes. In video footage, Floyd can be heard repeating, "I can't breathe," as Chauvin keeps his weight on him.

The former police officer was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Newsweek contacted the school for comment on the email.

Brooker said in a statement regarding the leaked email: "We are living in an extraordinary time that holds the promise of breaking down barriers and creating, finally, a world that is safe and just for people of all races and backgrounds. Our students, in many ways, are role models for this work. They have a keen awareness of the racial injustices that have permeated our society and are not afraid to call out sentiments, statements, or actions from adults that violate their sense of justice.

"We saw an example of that this week in our community when students reacted to an email from district staff that invited them to participate in restorative circles by affinity groups to process reactions to the Derek Chauvin verdict. The District's intent was to give our BIPOC students a safe space to talk with others from similar racial backgrounds and to provide White students with an opportunity to talk about how to be an ally.

"A poor choice of words in the subject line of the invitation to White students led to the perception that White students needed the same kind of "support" as our BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] students. Students of all racial backgrounds rightfully pushed back on that idea. We agree, and we want to affirm in the strongest terms that our commitment is to give all students a place to express their feelings and to learn how to engage in important issues.

"Everyone in our community has their own unique role and responsibility in the work of anti-racism; affinity groups advance equity by meeting the particular needs of each group in doing the work of eliminating systemic injustice. The intent of a circle for White allies is to discuss how to be a better ally in the pursuit of racial justice. Additionally, we are planning to offer circles open to all in order to give students of different backgrounds a chance to process together.

"We recognize that the journey of anti-racism is hard, and we will keep educating ourselves and learning from each other as we travel. This week the students reminded us that words matter. Even when the intention is honorable and right, we need to communicate with sensitivity and care.

"We thank all who communicated with us on this matter. Your feedback made a big difference and helped us clarify how we will communicate moving forward."

George Floyd protester at Hennepin County Center
A protester holds a sign outside the Courthouse before the closing arguments in Derek Chauvin's murder trial in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 19, 2021. A superintendent of a Bay Area school has called an email the school sent to students offering a “white student support circle” in the wake of the Chauvin verdict “a poor choice of words”. Kerem Yucel