Local nonprofit Action4Equity is asking the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education to reconsider the termination of their mentorship program contract.
The WS/FCS district announced the cancellation of the $1.4 million contract last week, upon learning one of the mentors had an inappropriate relationship with a student.
On July 6, the district sent a letter to the families of about 200 students involved in the program, stating that Action4Equity did not notify officials about the situation in a “timely or suitable manner.”
“Despite the benefits and potential of the Action4Equity mentoring program, WS/FCS will not tolerate any conduct that is in violation of WS/FCS Board policies and jeopardizes student safety,” the letter states.
But in a press release from July 12, Action4Equity states that the organization learned about the mentor's inappropriate conduct, fired the mentor and informed district officials and local law enforcement all on June 22.
According to the organization's timeline, the WS/FCS Board of Education then met in closed session and ended the contract on an unknown date. On June 30, the district sent a termination letter to Action4Equity.
President Kellie Easton said her organization had been in regular contact with the district to discuss the mentorship program, so when she got the letter of termination, she couldn't believe it.
“There were very clear, you know, lines of communications between Action4Equity and the district. So receiving this information was definitely shocking,” Easton said. “We felt that there were so many different ways this could have been handled, and then the misrepresentation of it all, just really, caused a lot of, you know, just disbelief.”
Action4Equity shared the district's termination letter along with the press release. The letter from the district states that the organization fired the mentor on June 20. It does not state when the organization brought the issue to officials.
The district's letter also states that the mentor had recently been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile. Easton condemns the alleged actions of the mentor, but says that all of the mentors in the program went through background checks conducted by Action4Equity as well as the school district.
She says that the community-based, Black-led program to curb violence is still worth investing in.
“Our organization stands with the mentees and families who desperately need the Embedded Mentorship Program and who have been unfairly impacted by the alleged actions of one mentor and the decision by the school district to end this contract,” the Action4Equity press release states.
WS/FCS was not at liberty to respond to Action4Equity's recent claims due to the ongoing law enforcement investigation.
Still, the district has stated that it will continue to provide community-based mentors for students with other local organizations beginning next school year.
Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.