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Seattle high school singles out black students to sign pledge to be better students

SEATTLE — A school pledge created by the staff at one Seattle high school has parents and students upset. That’s because it only addressed the African-American students.

The “Keepin’ it 100” covenant asked the African-American students to pledge they would be better students.

Franklin High junior Niya Thomas often shares her feelings with mom Neffertiti Thomas, including how she felt about a school covenant that had been given only to black students to sign.

“I don’t think they read that letter feeling encouraged, uplifted at all,” said Neffertiti Thomas. “They walked away feeling like I can’t do enough, I still didn’t make it.”

The covenant titled “Keepin’ it 100” asked that ‘African American scholars’ pledge to be on time to school, complete high school, and hold themselves to meet high expectations. They might all be good points, but students say shouldn’t have singled out one group.

“Every student counts in the school, I feel like if you gave it to one culture, you should have given it to the others as well,” said Niya Thomas.

“We were upset because the whole 12th grade class got the paper but it was supposed to be for us,” said senior Bazia Potts. “I know I felt embarrassed and my peers felt embarrassed as well.”

Potts said she was so offended she and others threw it away.

“They threw it in the garbage; they were angry; they threw it away,” said Potts.

Seattle Public Schools issued a statement saying it is committed to eliminating opportunity gaps but says the covenant has been discontinued after it proved to be "a distraction" from the original intent to support African-American students.

Here is the school district's full statement:

"Seattle Public Schools is committed to eliminating opportunity gaps and accelerating learning for each and every student.

"A student covenant was recently created by staff at Franklin High School. After meeting with senior students, Franklin staff discontinued the covenant as it proved to be a distraction from their original intent which is to increase efforts and support for African American students and ensure college readiness.

"In addition, a parent/community advisory group is under development to increase the school’s collective wisdom, inform their practices and build capacity to reach the goal of 100% of African American students college ready."

Parents say while they appreciate the effort, they believe there’s a better way.

“It felt like these African-American students weren’t good enough, that they didn’t somehow make the mark, that part was hurtful because we all want to send a positive message to our students,” said Neffertiti Thomas.

We talked to members of the Black Student Union at Franklin High; they tell me there’s a meeting with the principal after school on Thursday to discuss the issues.

Seattle Public Schools also says it will put together a parent/community advisory group to try to find a better way to bridge the opportunity gap.