ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The principal at Campbell Park Elementary in St. Petersburg is under fire for a racially-charged email she sent out Tuesday to teachers and staff.
Principal Christine Hoffman, emailed a list of guidelines to teachers, directing them to complete various tasks before the next school year. One of the guidelines was “white students should be in the same class.”
Several staff members anonymously forwarded the email to the St. Petersburg Branch of the NAACP.
At first, local NAACP President, Maria Scruggs, said she questioned the authenticity of the email.
“When I read it and focused on the comment, ‘white students should be in the same class,’ I thought ‘OK, this could be something fake,’” she said.
Scruggs later learned Hoffman issued an apology for the email.
“Totally unacceptable, because I wasn’t sure what she was apologizing for. I wasn’t sure if she was apologizing for getting caught,” said Scruggs. “What we won’t expect is an apology and an expectation that, ‘OK now we’re all fine and we’ll just move forward.’”
Parent Carolyn Newsom is defending Hoffman and said her words were taken out of context.
“When I heard it, I definitely thought the wording was not intended in the way that she meant it to,” said Newsom.
Newsom has known Hoffman for years. Her children attend the school. She said it’s a misunderstanding and feels the NAACP should drop the matter.
“I walk the hallway with my son back and forth. She’s always encouraging, loving. This was an error and I’m very sorry it had to happen this way,” said Newsom.
In Hoffman’s apology letter Tuesday, she did not clarify what she meant by the statement.
I would like to follow up on my meeting with teachers on Tuesday regarding class lists and the poor judgment I used in an e-mail that went to all our teachers and para professionals. In taking time to reflect on my actions, I felt it was important to write to all of you and share my thoughts. I made a mistake, and I am sorry.
I hope you know from our work together all year how dedicated I am to our students, our families and the success of our school. I value diversity, and the e-mail I wrote does not represent my commitment to our students and our school community.
Thank you for your support of our students and families as we continue our work. Please speak with me if you have any further questions or concerns.
I will be available Friday morning in the media center from 7:30 am to 9:00 am for any staff member that would like to come and speak to me about this.
In a Friday note to parents, Hoffman clarified her comment, writing in part:
The guidelines included a statement on assigning white students together, and I explained in the meeting that I was asking that there not be a class with only one white student. I was not asking that all white students in each grade be clustered, as that is not our practice in creating class lists. I understand how racially insensitive the guideline was.
The NAACP has reached out to Pinellas Co. School Superintendent Dr. Michael Grego concerning this matter.”
District leaders say Hoffman will face disciplinary action for her email.
The area superintendent is expected to develop a corrective action plan for the principal.
Partial text of the email is below.