Sylacauga pastor accuses school system of racism, says he’ll start his own school

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SYLACAUGA, Ala. (WIAT) — A Sylacauga pastor says he will start his own church-based school if the Board of Education does not address community concerns over race relations.

Rev. Manuell Smith of Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church spoke to the BOE at its meeting Tuesday night.

“The black students have no confidence in the administration. They feel like they don’t treat them fair,” Smith said.

Smith came to the meeting with dozens of parents, who said they’ve seen a pattern in the school system of black students receiving harsher punishments than white students for breaking the same rules. Lisa Spidell, who came to the meeting with her sister and her high school-aged nephew, Anthony, said that happened to her family last year.

“There was a white student that punched him in the face, we aren’t sure if he punched him the face or hit him with something, but he ended up with a broke nose. For some reason, the white student was given only 30 days suspension,” Spidell said.

Smith said a black student in the community recently received a year-long suspension for hitting a white student.

CBS 42 News wanted to run these allegations by the school system, to see if their records showed a disparity between punishments for black and white students. However, the superintendent, Dr. Todd Freeman, told us he would not answer any questions of speak in any way about Smith’s or the Sylacauga parents’ accusations.

At the meeting itself, the school board did not address Smith’s claims of mistreatment, and members did not bring up the recent beating of white high school student Brian Ogle, who was hospitalized after being badly beaten by a group of former students, who were black. Ogle’s mother told CBS 42 News she believed the assault was race-driven and wanted to see the suspects charged with hate crimes.

Dr. Freeman told CBS 42 News no other administrators within the school system would be allowed to comment on the status of race relations in Sylacauga. Board members declined our requests for interviews.

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