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Principal transferred after asking to group white students

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — A white principal of a predominantly black elementary school who told her staff to put white students in the same classrooms is no longer at the Florida school.

Christine Hoffman requested a transfer off the Campbell Park Elementary School campus in St. Petersburg on Monday while district officials review her tenure.

The Tampa Bay Times (http://bit.ly/2qaiO0W ) reports that Hoffman’s email included detailed instructions for deciding classroom rosters.

The instructions required classrooms to have students of mixed reading levels to be together, an equal number of boys and girls, no more than two students who are known to misbehave per class and said “white students should be in the same class.”

Hoffman later apologized in writing for what she called “poor judgment.”

In a letter to parents, Hoffman wrote that she had intended that there not be a class with only one white student. Of the school’s 606 students, 49 are white.

“I was not asking that all white students in each grade be clustered, as that is not our practice in creating class lists,” she wrote. “I understand how racially insensitive the guideline was.”

Asked by parents during a meeting Monday why she wanted students grouped by skin color, she said she wanted students to feel more comfortable, according to community member Denise Ford.

Parents are responding by calling for her resignation.

“The parents said that as black people we are used to being the only black person in the classroom and no one is making sure we are comfortable,” said Ford, who attended the meeting and recounted Hoffman’s conversation with parents. “The parents were not accepting of any excuse. We accept your apology, but you have to go.”

The Pinellas County School District currently is being investigated by the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Education, which is examining whether the district disproportionately disciplines black students and doesn’t give them equal access to teachers, curriculum and other resources.

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Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.

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