The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District has canceled a $1.4 million contract with local nonprofit Action4Equity for a mentorship pilot program.
The program was implemented this year to provide community-based, trained mentors in four schools in an effort to curb an uptick in violence.
But on July 6, the district sent a letter to the families of about 200 students involved in the program, saying a mentor had been terminated for having an inappropriate relationship with a student.
The letter states that Action4Equity terminated the mentor, but that they did not notify the school district 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.
Some of those involved in the mentorship program condemned the district's decision and shared testimonies of the positive impact of their work during a press conference on July 7.
“Our mentors are working in the schools, doing transformational work in the schools,” said Action4Equity President Kellie Easton. “They are doing transformational work in the community. And they are even doing transformational work in homes.”
Easton said she was proud of the work the organization had done, including screening their mentors for the program.
“Action4Equity conducted two background checks. After we conducted our background checks, we submitted names to the school district,” she said. “The school district then conducted background checks. Everyone in our program was fully vetted.”
Terrell Harris, the lead mentor at Paisley Middle School, spoke out against the district's decision to end the contract for Action4Equity, saying that individuals need to be held accountable for their own actions.
“You can't put everybody together. One Black person does something, now all Black people are bad? No,” he said. “One KKK member does something, now all white people are bad? No, that isn't how the world works.”
Easton said that the district's decision to end the contract would not put an end to the organization's work.
“We have what we need in order to continue this program without the school district. Even though they have terminated their contract, we're going to keep going,” she said.
In the letter sent out to families, the school district also said that it would be working to continue mentorship programming for students with other local organizations.
“Because we believe community-based mentoring programs are beneficial to our students, we have recently partnered with seven community agencies to continue offering mentoring programs with a wide range of services,” the letter states.
The district said that it could not provide more details on the issue due to the active law enforcement investigation.
Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.