On May 23, during class, Century Academy teacher Deanna Rivers told her students it was OK to work in pairs. Shortly after, Rivers stepped out of the room for a moment and science teacher Kelly Dempsey, who is White, came into the classroom to watch over the class. When seventh-grader Brea Persley got out of her seat to work with another student, Dempsey told her to “sit your nappy-headed self down.”
According to Shronda Williams, Persley’s mother, Principal Giselle Edman allegedly said she was happy Dempsey made the comment because “bad things happen to bad people.” Further, said Williams, Edman decided to expel Persley, presented her with a letter saying that the student was not welcome back to school and asking her to return her textbooks. Williams’ attorney Keith Alan explains that Edman also gave her a copy of Persley’s record, which noted a few tardies, absences and uniform violations.
A press release from Century Academy states the opposite, saying that Edman did not condone the language that Dempsey used, that Persley was never expelled, and that “we hope Brea will return to school.”
However, Persley did not return to Century Academy and missed the last three weeks of the semester. Her mother attempted to enroll her in another school, but it was too late because many public schools had already finished the year. Persley was unable to complete the seventh grade, and will possibly need to repeat the last semester at another school.
Williams hired attorneys Alan and John Schlaff, and will file a claim against the school with the New Century school board under the California governmental tort claim statute to receive recompense for the incident. If they cannot resolve matter with the school, Alan says they are prepared to file a lawsuit against the school and the principal. Williams is also looking to change the charter school process so that the principal is held more accountable to a higher authority.
“The principal should not be the end-all be-all,” said Alan.
Century Academy is a part of the Lennox School District. However, the school has its own independent school board. Alan believes the relationship between Century Academy and its independent school board is too close to have effective oversight.
The school has taken action by placing Dempsey on unpaid leave for the rest of the school year.