ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The St. Petersburg Chapter of the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus are calling for the dean of students at St. Petersburg Catholic High School to be fired.
It comes after black students spoke out about the racism they said they experienced at school. Some say Ronald Rhoads, the dean of students, used racially insensitive words when speaking about black students.
“The Saint Petersburg Catholic High School management did not respond quickly to these incidents,” Esther Matthews said at a press conference outside the school on Tuesday afternoon.
Matthews is the current president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP.
“When we hear the dean of students calling [students] black thugs, then retracts saying his lyrics were a bad choice. When a student has to deal with racism and her peers tell her they assume they are going to apologize to her dark side. When a student asks to go to the bathroom and one of his classmates calls the teacher and says, “Hey, teach, your slave is leaving”. And to have the words monkey carved on a teacher’s door,” she said. “When these things happen here, it means we have students in an environment that has allowed a culture of racial hatred to fester unchecked.”
A parent also sent ABC Action News a photo of racial slurs etched into the bathroom stall. Manager Ross Bubolz said he was made aware of some of the incidents, including the graffiti on the toilets. He spoke out against racism at the press conference and also admitted his mistakes in handling the issue.
“We try to resolve issues when they arise,” he said. “We’re trying to be forward-thinking about it, and if I missed something or wasn’t paying as much attention as needed. That’s why we want to deepen this conversation and be more understanding and up-to-date. listen to our students.
Matthews said she had several conversations with Principal Bubolz and that the two were working together to finally address and end racism in school.
The press conference passed off peacefully, but there was a tense moment when a woman appeared upset that it had gone public. She didn’t like the media, the NAACP and local community leaders involved.
“Why isn’t this handled in the church,” she asked a member of the diocese. “You must take care of it in the only and holy Catholic Church.”
We posed the same question to Principals Bubolz and Matthews.
Matthews replied, “If it could be handled within the school, we wouldn’t be here.”
In addition to wanting to remove Dean Rhoads, students and local leaders are demanding more education and tougher penalties.