No violation by WSFCS teacher who invited NOI speaker to class

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Miranda Jones, a teacher with Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, speaks to city council in February. (file photo)

A Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools teacher says she has been cleared of wrongdoing following a district investigation into a visit by a representative of the Nation of Islam representative to her special education English class at North Forsyth High School.

Miranda Jones said she met with her principal, along with Instructional Superintendent Lionel Kato and General Counsel Dionne Jenkins.

“They were very clear that I didn’t violate any policy,” Jones told Triad City Beat, adding that she will voluntarily leave her teaching position at the end of the school year.

The investigation came about after the conservative website First In Freedom Daily posted an anonymously-penned article about student minister Effrainguan Muhammad’s visit to Jones’ class. Jones has attracted public attention through media interviews in her role as an antiracist activist with Hate Out of Winston, a group supporting the city of Winston-Salem’s decision to remove the Confederate monument. Separately from the controversy created by the First In Freedom Daily article, Jones faces a subpoena by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to testify in the group’s civil case seeking the restoration of the monument.

“They said, ‘You have impeccable lesson plans, you’re a skilled teacher, but sometimes your passion gets in the way. We don’t believe you’re anti-Semitic. We don’t believe you’re racist,’” Jones said of her meeting with her principal, instructional superintendent and the district’s general counsel. “They said there was a flurry of activity around the article, and it was disruptive to the school environment, although nobody has come to the school to disrupt it that I’m aware of.”

Many of the comments on the First In Freedom Daily Facebook post sharing the article promote violence, including two calling for Jones to be shot.

Jones recalled that Kato told her that “some people feel that the Nation of Islam is a racist and anti-Semitic organization,” adding that “this is a conservative district.”

“I can only interpret that as a ‘white supremacist’ district,” Jones said.

Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Brent Campbell said the district cannot comment on the matter because it involves personnel.

Jones said Jenkins told her that although she didn’t do anything wrong, the district will create a policy going forward to cover classroom visits by guest speakers. Jones said she’d already requested permission to bring in Larry Little and Hazel Mack, two former leaders of the Winston-Salem Black Panther Party, along with Rev. Paul Robeson Ford and the Rev. Alvin Carlisle, president of the Winston-Salem NAACP, while expressing frustration that the district has been slow to process the requests.

“It’s a way to shut out powerful black voices that speak on behalf of black students,” Jones said.

Jones said the invited guest were selected because their experiences are likely to be relevant to her students, who include 10 African-American males, two Latinx males and one Latinx female. Some of her students are facing criminal charges and homelessness, or have parents who are incarcerated.

Jones said the administration created a lesson plan and curriculum guideline that she believes does not allow her to meet the educational needs of her black students, and she’s determined that she will finish out the school year, and then find another job.

“My heart is heavy because I truly love black children and I know I have too much to offer, just not here,” Jones posted on her Facebook page on Tuesday.

Jones told TCB that she’s been challenging her principal for more than a year over exclusively using black and brown children with disabilities to handle recycling duties, and that the practice has remained unchanged.

“It is clear that Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is mired in white supremacy,” Jones said.