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Decatur High principal will return as evaluation prompted by teacher’s use of racial slur winds down

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Decatur High principal will return as evaluation prompted by teacher’s use of racial slur winds down

Decatur High School Principal Rochelle Lofstrand speaks during the Decatur High School Army JROTC 20th annual September 11 Remembrance Ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 9. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — Decatur High School Principal Rochelle Lofstrand will return to the school two months after City Schools of Decatur reassigned her and a teacher accused of using a racial slur in a classroom.

The district’s contractor, Courtlandt Butts, has been evaluating CSD’s response to the incident. Superintendent Maggie Fehrman sent a letter to Decatur High staff on Friday, March 3, indicating that Butts evaluation is winding down. She said Lofstrand would return March 13.

“I wanted to inform you that we have concluded the investigation regarding the use of a racial slur by a teacher and the subsequent response by the school and district leadership,” Fehrman said. “I will be sending out the formal report next week, but wanted to let you know that Rochelle will be returning to DHS on March 13.  Rochelle is working with a team on her reentry plan and we will share more details next week.  A decision has not been made yet regarding the teacher.”

Decatur High students have pushed for more accountability for the teacher and the school’s administration. Students held a walkout on Dec. 16 and a community town hall soon after.

On Dec. 9, a parent emailed Lofstrand. The parent wrote, “I heard there was an incident, captured on video, with a white male teacher using a slur in a Freshman science class.”

Lofstrand responded within minutes.

“Racial equity is very important to me and the students and staff at DHS,” Lofstrand wrote back. “I take all situations involving harm to students and/or staff seriously. The rumor you heard is not accurate.”

The parent shared her exchange with Lofstrand with community leaders on Dec. 23.

Phil Cuffey, co-chair of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, asked for Lofstrand to be reassigned during the evaluation process.

In an email to Superintendent Maggie Fehrman on Jan. 2, he cited Lofstrand’s response to the parent as a reason the district should reassign Lofstrand. He told Fehrman that Lofstrand’s response “denies the truth.”

“It underscores the uncertainty expressed by students and community members at the town hall about why this issue is being taken lightly by the administration,” Cuffey said. “The light consequences for the teacher, and an unacceptable apology, add to this perception, which is reality for many. In addition to the missteps in investigating, reporting and processing this incident, you mentioned at our previous meeting, this response undermines the educators and community trust in the high school leadership. We question if the damage done is recoverable without a change in leadership. It is our expectation that accountability and consequences starting from suspension up to reassignment apply at the high school leadership level is achieved.”

Duane Sprull has served as interim principal during Lofstrand’s reassignment.

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