By: Tonya Jackson
After the League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area’s Prison to Pipeline Forum, civil rights activist Ellison Bennett commented, “This meeting gave people a false sense that everything is well in our school system. Everyone on that panel was handpicked by Malcolm Thomas and worked for the school system. We needed parents, members of the community, business owners, and mental health workers on that panel. It was an endorsement of Malcolm Thomas’s campaign; I don’t see it as a great success. It was just a waste of time. If we’re going to have a real meeting about this issue, people need to be able to come to the podium and ask their questions and not have it read by someone else. Why wasn’t anyone from the general public on the committee? And why wasn’t there a member of the mental health care community there?”
We contacted Escambia County School District Deputy Superintendent Norm Ross for a comment on the meeting and the incident with Brice Broughton, “The family is dealing with this issue in the court, and that has nothing to do with the District. We ruled in his favor, and he is back in school and participating in sports. We have nothing else to say about this.”
The incident in question involves Brice Broughton and his teammates. On October 1, 2015, the junior varsity football team at West Florida High School won a game against their rivals and were excited. Afterward, on the bus ride home, they celebrated with roughhousing. The roughhousing resulted in some team members getting “pantsed.” One young man also lost his tights during the shenanigans and as he lay on the floor covering his genitals with his hands some of his teammates videoed the incident and shared it with Snap Chat.
Thelma Roby, the grandmother of Broughton, is angry about her grandson’s treatment and is concerned for him. She shared, “My grandson, Brice Elliot Broughton, is 15 years old and an honor student. He has never seen the inside of a dean’s office in his life. He was attending West Florida High School this is a supposed to be the school for the elite students in this county.”
“They charged my grandson and (another student) with a civil citation. We got the ACLU involved because of the School to Prison Pipeline connection. They changed the name of the charge from ‘expulsion’ to ‘disciplinary reassignment.’ The difference in expulsion and disciplinary reassignment is that the latter gives you no right to a full hearing.“
Roby continues with areas where she sees lies were told, “Malcolm Thomas said, ‘the boy was physically handicapped and stripped naked and left on the school bus.’ Jeff Bergosh went on his blog and ranted, ‘the kids should be arrested and charged with criminal offenses.’ He is the same person who said. ‘The black district brings down the entire district.’ He also said, ‘Black people are like cockroaches.’ He called my daughter ‘ignorant’ and she is a high school teacher in this district. We have filed a complaint with the Education Department Civil Rights Division.”
In regards to the Federal investigation of this matter, the Office of Civil Rights has “advised the District that it may not harass, coerce, intimidate, or discriminate against any individual because he or she has filed a complaint or participated in the complaint resolution process.” As the investigation continues, Ms. Roby has made contact with national leaders for assistance in resolving this matter. The Pensacola Voice will keep you abreast of developments.