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In Brief: Schools Chief Tells Principals No Assemblies for Ethnic Groups

Schools Director Tells Principals No Assemblies for Ethnic Groups


Rutherford County Schools Director Harry Gill said he will tell his principals to avoid special assemblies for ethnic groups after complaints about a high school gathering for Black and Hispanic students to discuss improving test scores, a district spokesman said.

La Vergne High School Principal Melvin Daniels, who is Black, held the Friday assembly that offended some students who felt the meeting was unfairly targeted at minority students.

“What Mr. Daniels was talking about was total outrage,” said senior Stephanie Dement, noting that she’s a B student with hopes of becoming a pediatrician.

A lot of the students were upset about it, she said. “We felt like he was calling us Black people dumb.”

Daniels said his goal was to encourage the students to improve their test scores on Gateway exams in Biology I, English II and Algebra I. Student must pass the test to graduate, as well as the 11th-grade writing assessment.

Daniels said the accusations against him are untrue.

“Everything I’ve heard so far is hogwash,” said Daniels. “The idea of all this name calling is ludicrous.”

Schools that miss the test score mark will be placed on the state’s “Target” list after one year, and the state could end up taking over the school if improvement isn’t shown. La Vergne has been on the Target list twice, but came off the very next year by showing adequate progress.

“Mr. Gill said they will look for alternative ways of handling these situations in the future because of the amount of misperception and misunderstanding from some parents and students,” district spokesman James Evans said.

Hate Crimes Rose 8 Percent in 2006


Hate crime incidents rose nearly 8 percent last year, the FBI reported Monday, as civil rights advocates increasingly take to the streets to protest what they call official indifference to intimidation and attacks against Blacks and other minorities.

Police across the nation reported 7,722 criminal incidents in 2006 targeting victims or property as a result of bias against a race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic or national origin or physical or mental disability. That was up 7.8 percent from 7,163 incidents reported in 2005.

More than half the incidents were motivated by racial prejudice, but the report did not even pick up all the racially motivated incidents last year.

Although the noose incidents and beatings among students at Jena, La., high school occurred in the last half of 2006, they were not included in the report. Only 12,600 of the nation’s more than 17,000 local, county, state and federal police agencies participated in the hate crime reporting program in 2006 and neither Jena nor LaSalle Parish, in which the town is located, were among the agencies reporting.

Nevertheless, the Jena incidents, and a subsequent rash of noose and other racial incidents around the country, have spawned civil rights demonstrations that culminated last week at Justice Department headquarters here. The department said it investigated the Jena incident but decided not to prosecute because the federal government does not typically bring hate crime charges against juveniles.

“The FBI report confirms what we have been saying for many months about the severe increase in hate crimes,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who organized Friday’s march. “What is not reported, however, is the lack of prosecution and serious investigation by the Justice Department to counter this increase in hate crimes.” Sharpton called for Attorney General Michael Mukasey to meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and civil rights leaders to discuss this enforcement.

The FBI report does not break out the number of noose incidents but the two most frequent hate crimes in 2006 were property damage or vandalism, at 2,911 offenses, and intimidation, at 2,046 offenses. There were 3 murders, 6 rapes, 860 aggravated assaults, 1,447 simple assaults and 41 arsons. Other offenses included robbery, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft.

Father Frustrated Over Pace of Search for Missing Jackson State University Student


The father of a missing 20-year-old Jackson State University student says he’s frustrated by what he describes as a slow-moving investigation.

Latasha Norman, an accounting major from Greenville, has been missing for nearly a week. Authorities have said little publicly about their investigation.

“I’m not leaving Jackson until I find out something about my child. If I don’t get something accomplished, I’m taking it to a higher level,” Danny Bolden of Greenville said Monday, adding that he would try to contact the FBI or district attorney’s office.

“They haven’t told me nothing yet and that’s why I’m frustrated. This is totally out of Tasha’s character. She wouldn’t have ever just left with a stranger,” Bolden said.

JSU’s campus police and the Jackson Police Department are handling the case. Norman, a junior honor student, was last seen on Nov. 13 in an afternoon marketing class, but never returned to her dorm room. Her car was left on campus.

Anthony Dean, Jackson State’s director of communications, said he understood how stressful the situation was for Bolden.

“Our Department of Public Safety is doing everything it possibly can, working with JPD and following up on every lead they possibly have to try to find Miss Norman’s whereabouts,” Dean said Monday.

Bolden criticized the university’s lack of surveillance cameras on campus. Dean said cameras are installed in the dormitories. Dean also said this is the first time JSU has ever had a missing student case.

The university held a prayer vigil for Norman on Friday. Fliers with Norman’s picture were posted around campus and passed out during JSU’s football game against Alcorn on Saturday, said Tommiea Jackson, a university spokeswoman.

The Jackson Police Department did not return several calls seeking information about the investigation on Monday.

Bolden said Norman’s tires were slashed on campus a few weeks before her disappearance. He said someone also stole her license plate from the car. He instructed his daughter to file a report with the campus police after the incidents.

Stanley Cole, Norman’s ex-boyfriend was arrested Thursday on charges stemming from an incident last month. Cole was charged with simple assault after being accused of striking Norman with his fist Oct. 9 as the two argued in a restaurant parking lot in Pearl, said Capt. Ronnie Conerly. Cole, 23, was released on $500 bond. He gave police a Greenville address, but he couldn’t be reached for comment.

Bolden said he had not heard from Cole since Norman’s disappearance. Bolden has said his daughter was trying to end her relationship with Cole.

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