WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — The non-profit Action4Equity is asking for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to reinstate their contract after a mentor was fired over an alleged inappropriate relationship with a student.
The partnership launched in December 2021 and placed community mentors in four WS/FCS schools: Paisley Middle School, Philo-Hill Middle School, Parkland High School and Reynolds High School. The school district ended its $1.4 million contract with the program on June 30 in response to the allegations, and, on Wednesday, notified parents of the investigation.
The statement issued by Action4Equity on Tuesday, first and foremost, says the non-profit “stands with this child and with this family; and we condemn in the strongest terms the alleged actions of this former mentor.”
Action4Equity then says that, on June 22, program staff told leadership that mentees “had just shared information concerning a mentor and alleged inappropriate conduct with a fellow student who was not enrolled in the Embedded Mentoring Program.” The program says they fired the mentor, informed two high-level WS/FCS officials and contacted police all on that same day. The letter of termination from WS/FCS said that the mentor was fired on June 20.
The organization also reiterated that, before working with students, mentors undergo background checks and references, including with the Department of Justice and North Carolina Offender Registry, as well as WS/FCS background checks.
“This program was successful,” Action4Equity said. “It was preventing violence in our schools and our community. This program is changing lives. Why would anyone want to disrupt it or destroy it? We call on the WSFCS Board of Education to reconsider their decision and reinstate the contract.”
In a letter from WS/FCS General Counsel Dionne Jenkins to Action4Equity President and CEO Kellie Easton dated June 30, Jenkins says the school district learned that Action4Equity fired a mentor on June 20 for “reportedly engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a student at the school the mentor served.”
The mentor has since been charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, Jenkins wrote.
“Upon information and belief, the child at issue in the criminal charge is in the mentorship program and is a different child from the one that led to Action4Equity’s termination of the policy,” Jenkins wrote.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports that the mentor, who may have been assigned to Philo-Hill Middle School, was charged with helping a 14-year-old get a vape on June 21 and was arrested on June 24, citing an arrest warrant.
The district believes the mentor may have violated other school district policies, including one addressing the transportation of students.
Action4Equity’s full July 12 statement is included below:
To our community, and to those who love our children and are committed to their future:
The allegations of harm being caused to one of our community’s children causes us great grief. Our organization stands with this child and with this family; and we condemn in the strongest terms the alleged actions of this former mentor. Our organization stands with the mentors who work tirelessly to cover our community’s children with the love and care that supports them as they set lofty goals for their own lives. Our organization stands with the mentees and families who desperately need the Embedded Mentorship Program and who have been unfairly impacted by the alleged actions of one mentor and the decision by the school district to end this contract.
The mission of Action4Equity is grounded in the belief that the community has the answers, and that the unity of our community is central to our shared liberation and prosperity. We know that trust lies at the foundation of our unity, and we are sharing additional information now as part of our commitment to transparency.
Today, we are releasing the June 30th Notice of Immediate Termination received from the
WS/FCS. There are several representations in the district’s letter that are not true.
“Information submitted to WS/FCS demonstrates that Action4Equity terminated a mentor on Monday, June 20th, for reportedly engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a student at the school the mentor served. Unfortunately, the termination of the mentor and the reasons therefore were not shared with WS/FCS in a timely or suitable manner.”
- June 22, 2022: A4E leadership is informed by program staff that mentees had just shared information concerning a mentor and alleged inappropriate conduct with a fellow student who was not enrolled in the Embedded Mentoring Program.
- June 22, 2022: The mentor in question is officially terminated from the program;
- June 22, 2022: A4E leadership informs two separate high-level WS/FCS officials;
- June 22, 2022: A4E leadership and program staff contact WSPD and report the allegation;
- Date unknown: WS/FCS Board of Education meets in closed session and terminates the
contract with A4E;
- June 30, 2022: WS/FCS sends a termination letter to Action4Equity.
A4E follows all safety protocols and implements best practices regarding background checks and references, (including the Department of Justice and the North Carolina Offender Registry). All mentors also were cleared by the WSFCS’s background check before working with students.
This program was successful. It was preventing violence in our schools and our community. This program is changing lives. Why would anyone want to disrupt it or destroy it?
We call on the WSFCS Board of Education to reconsider their decision and reinstate the contract.