Statement of Bernice A. King, CEO of The King Center, Regarding "Extreme" Sentencing of 10 APS Educators

4/14/2015

Today was a sad day in the city, state and nation. I am disheartened by the sentencing meted out against 10 APS educators. My heart goes out to the educators, their families and their loved ones. I am especially concerned about the children, families and communities impacted. 

I stand by my assertion that prison sentences for educators, who are all nonviolent, first time offenders, is harsh punishment that far exceeds the crimes they committed. While I believe that there should be consequences for their actions, the sentences handed to these educators sets a very dangerous precedent for not addressing the inequality and dysfunction that plagues our nation's broken educational system. This dysfunction and inequality was written into law in 1896 in Plessy v Ferguson. Fifty eight years later, the Warren Court attempted to nullify the doctrine of separate but equal in Brown v Board of Education. Yet, the educational system has sadly been made worse by various congressional and presidential edicts that have not adequately addressed these deficiencies, especially in under served communities. We are still dealing with the notion of separate but equal in our educational system and standards. 

I was asked today what my father would think about the accusations, the trial and the sentencing. He would be saddened by the entire situation: by the disservice that has been done to our children, by the fallacies within the education system, by the extreme sentencing of the educators and the lack of character demonstrated.  My father stated that "Intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education." I believe that we have sent a horrible message about character in education and now have to begin the painstaking task of restoring integrity to our education system.

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? My father posed this question as the title for one of his last compelling books. This is a chance for us to turn the chaos of the cheating scandal into a community of concerned parents, teachers, and government officials who can alleviate the inequality that exists in our educational system. This is an opportunity for us to work together to guarantee that our pupils learn and perform on their respective grade levels. This, I believe, is how we ensure that no child is left behind. I believe that this trial was a wake-up call to the city of Atlanta and the nation. Each of us must assume greater accountability in caring for our children and their futures.