Denver high school changes policy allowing Black History event opt-out

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recep-bg/iStock(DENVER) -- A Denver high school reversed a controversial policy on Thursday that allowed students to opt out of attending a Black History Month assembly.

Officials at George Washington High School told ABC News parents no longer will be allowed to prevent their children from attending individual assemblies amid backlash over its decision to let students opt out of an upcoming black history celebration in March.

"Effective immediately we are eliminating the assembly opt-out policy and all students will attend educational assemblies at GW," Kristin Waters, the school's principal, said in a statement. "As we continue the important work of dismantling systemic racism, segregation, and inequity in education, and specifically at George Washington High School, we appreciate our community holding us accountable."

"To expand the perspectives and learning opportunities for all of our students, it is counter-productive to promote the opportunity to opt-out of an assembly examining any part of history, culture, or current events," Waters continued.

George Washington faced fierce backlash earlier this week after the school emailed a newsletter to parents that advertised its upcoming "African-American Heritage Month assembly" and included a form that allowed parents to opt their kids out of attending.

"Students who opt-out of the assembly will be supervised in the library for the duration of the assembly and will return to their second-period class at the conclusion of the assembly to continue the school day," the letter said, according to The Denver Post, which obtained a copy of the newsletter.

Parents and community members were outraged over the decision to make a black heritage celebration optional, but the school said the opt-out form was standard and applied to all school-wide assemblies.

Community leaders with Our Voice-Our Schools, a local education advocacy group, posted a copy of the school's newsletter to Facebook on Wednesday, calling it an example of "systemic racism" within Denver Public Schools.

"This is the type of systemic racism that we are talking about that pervades DPS at its core. Since when do students get to 'opt-out' of Black History Month assemblies," the post said. "Everyday this is the type of microaggressions that Black faculty, parents and students have to face in this racist system. This is the problem."

It commended George Washington officials for their swift action in a subsequent post when news of the policy change broke.

"I don't know who the principal is over at George Washington personally but whoever she is she's a whole lot more responsive to black equity demands then the DPS admin seems to be," the group's director, Hasira Ashemu, wrote in a Facebook post after the announcement. "The work is just beginning."

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