Some parents in Memphis are upset about East High School becoming a STEM school, with at least one parent saying the plan is racist.
“I feel like it’s just like Jim Crow,” parent Jacquelyn Webb told WREG News Channel 3. “They legally separating our students because they want the cream of the crop.”
However, Shelby County Schools spokeswoman Natalia Powers said more than half of the 90 students already accepted into the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program at East High School are African-American and there are also some Hispanics.
Parents attended a meeting Friday evening at the Lester Community Center to voice their concerns about students being separated, with some in the area now having to be bused to Douglass High School or Melrose High School. The only new students being enrolled at East High School this year are those accepted into the new STEM program, now being offered to ninth-graders. The program will expand to other grade levels in coming years until the entire school is STEM only.
Some parents said they were caught off guard by the change and complained about just now learning about it. Powers, however, said the district has been communicating with families since last fall and has held six or seven community meetings. But Webb said, “Even though they’ve communicated with them, they don’t really have the understanding of that.”
Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland is opposed to the plan because of costs, saying it will be expensive to bus students in the area to other schools.
Monday was the first day of the new school year in Shelby County.