Bunnell Elementary School Assembled Black Students for Assembly About Test Scores


BUNNELL, Fla. - In one of the more bizarre stories in the recent history of Flagler Schools, a group of solely Black students were assembled at Bunnell Elementary School for a presentation urging better performance in standardized testing. The assembly, which was first reported by FlaglerLive, has drawn the near-unanimous condemnation of parents in Flagler County, both from those whose children attended and otherwise.

According to initial reports, students were called out of regularly scheduled classes to the assembly in BES's cafeteria. They were systematically picked according to their skin color, and the entire body of the assembly was Black. The organizers of the event, who are also Black, had the approval of Principal Donnelle Evensen to carry it out. According to a district spokesman, this seems to be the first time in Flagler Schools' history that an assembly was constructed on the basis of race.

There was ultimately one assembly each for fourth and fifth graders, with the content outlined to tell them what may hypothetically become of their lives if their test scores didn't get higher. Some of those scenarios, according to parents whose children were in attendance, were going to jail or dying in a bout of gun violence. Fourth and fifth grade students are usually around nine to twelve years old.

Many parents took to social media to spread the word about initial reports of the assembly, and give their reactions. Responses ranged from accusing the school and district of racism, to vowing to pull their kids out and opt for private school or homeschooling.

Interim Superintendent LaShakia Moore, recently entered into the vetting process to become permanent superintendent, agreed that the assembly was a poor idea. "In speaking with Mrs. Evensen, it is clear there was no malice intended in planning this student outreach," she said in a statement issued to the media on Tuesday. "However, sometimes, when you try to think 'outside the box', you forget why the box is there."

It's not entirely clear what data set the organizers were drawing from with their claim that low standardized test scores in elementary school correspond to being jailed or shot later in life. A study by the National Institutes of Health found that students who struggle with standardized testing often thrive in other areas, a trend which the study's authors say works against the theory that high test scores correlate to success. Also relevant is that Bunnell Elementary School is currently a C school in serious jeopardy of becoming a failing school. Which factor was a greater driving factor behind the assemblies' inception is subject to speculation.

"I will continue working with Mrs. Evensen and her team to find more appropriate ways to affect change on their campus, even as we continue to investigate this particular issue," Moore continued. "I’m also asking anyone in our community who may have questions, please contact Mrs. Evensen at Bunnell Elementary or myself."

With this portion of her comments, Moore appeared to confirm that Evensen will move forward as principal at Bunnell Elementary, quelling speculation that jobs might be in question. An investigation is being carried out by the district to determine if policy changes will occur. Meanwhile, the district is sending a message to the parents whose children were picked, and private conversations between the superintendent and some of these parents are underway.