From WHEC, NBC News affiliate in Rochester, New York:
The man running the city school district is apologizing tonight. Bolgen Vargas says they’re looking into claims a middle school student was harassed by teachers because of her essay on Frederick Douglass.
Life has changed for 13-year-old Jada Williams ever since she wrote an essay on the book, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” It was part of the Roc Read Initiative, an option for students to do over winter break. Jada says she compared her own educational experiences with the life of Douglass.
Williams said, “How the teachers do not want children to exceed their levels. They want you to stay on certain levels. They don’t feel like they need to instruct you.”
Jada won the Spirit of Freedom Award from the Frederick Douglass Foundation of New York. She read her winning essay in Rochester. But she and her mother say it was a different story when she turned in her essay at School No. 3.
Williams said, “I heard that my essay was passed around to other teachers, so when they read that they felt offended too. They just wanted to get rid of me, I guess.”
Jada’s mother says her grades suddenly dropped from A’s and B’s to failing and teachers told her Jada was “angry.”
Carla Williams said, “So I said ‘Give me something to explain why you’re calling her ‘angry’’, but they could never clarify why they were saying that.”
Jada transferred to School No. 19 last month. Her mother doesn’t understand why her daughter is being treated this way after taking part in the Roc Read Initiative.
Carla Williams said, “They presented the book the materials in the books, all she did was compare it to her lifestyle.”
Late Friday afternoon, Superintendent Bolgen Vargas said the entire situation is unfortunate and offered an apology for what she is going through.
Superintendent Vargas said, “We could have responded better. This is a situation that was definitely not handled the best way.”
Vargas said he understands adult reaction, but school is a place where students should be able to explore ideas. When asked what action was being taken, Superintendent Vargas said while he couldn’t go into detail, but that they are addressing the situation.
For more Rochester, N.Y. news go to our website www.whec.com.