Parents at Mary Lin Elementary School in Candler Park are refuting a claim that classes were segregated based on race.

The allegation is now the subject of a U.S. Department of Education investigation into whether the school violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Parent Kila Posey filed a federal complaint alleging that Black second grade students were being separated from white students in different classrooms – a practice Posey said was instituted by Principal Sharyn Briscoe. Both Posey and Briscoe are Black.

According to the complaint, Posey discovered the practice after she tried to have her second grader moved to a different classroom with a teacher she thought would be a better fit for her daughter.

Posey said in an interview with WSB-TV that Briscoe told her it wouldn’t be possible to move her daughter because it wasn’t “one of the Black classes.” Posey said she was unwilling to go along with the “illegal and unethical practice,” and also submitted audio recordings of conversations with administrators about the issue.

Posey complained to Atlanta Public Schools, but was unsatisfied with the outcome. In a media statement APS said: “APS does not condone assigning students to classrooms based solely on race. When we learned of allegations of this conduct occurring during virtual instruction at Mary Lin Elementary School in August 2020, the district conducted a review and took immediate and appropriate action at that time to resolve the issue.”

Posey said she has been an educator for 17 years and operates a business that provides after-school activities at the school. Her husband is a school psychologist at Mary Lin. Posey said both she and her husband have “suffered retaliatory acts” after making the allegation.

However, other Black parents at Mary Lin have refuted Posey’s claim of segregated classrooms.

“It did not happen,” parent Stacee White told Atlanta Intown. “My children were never separated into a ‘Black class.’ You can look at the yearbook and see that there are no all Black classes at Mary Lin.”

White said she was “bewildered” by Posey’s allegations, and was upset that a false narrative of segregation was being pushed to the media. White said she pulled her kids from a private school just so they could attend Mary Lin. She said her children have thrived at the school earning all As.

“I believe trying this case in the media causes harm to the students and the community,” White said. “It’s unfortunate and unfair.”

Parent Rian Smith agreed with White. “I’m in shock. The allegations that there are Black classes can simply be disproved by looking at a school yearbook,” Smith said. “It’s factually inaccurate.”

Smith said there might be an appearance of segregation simply by the fact that there is a small number of Black students at Mary Lin, but her children were never segregated based on their race.

According to data from the Georgia Department of Education, Mary Lin has 599 students in grades kindergarten through fifth, with 60 of those being Black. The second grade class has 98 students, 12 of whom are Black.

Smith had nothing but praise for Principal Briscoe.

“I think Ms. Briscoe is wonderful,” Smith said. “She has a gift for remembering and knowing all the students and parents at the school and she always has the best interest of the children in mind.”

Social media posts and Facebook groups created by Mary Lin parents –  both Black and white – have also dismissed the allegation and defended Briscoe.

Posey said she wanted to see the Mary Lin administration removed and replaced with new leadership.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.