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Controversial school event sparks debate on segregation and inclusion at Appleton East

"Freshmen Students of Color Meet & Greet”
Posted at 6:04 PM, Aug 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-11 19:04:39-04

APPLETON (NBC 26) — A recent Facebook post on the Appleton East page has ignited a discussion within the community, with accusations of segregation and discrimination aimed at the school. The post in question advertised a back-to-school event exclusively designated for “Freshmen Students of Color Meet & Greet” drawing criticism from concerned parents and residents.

Jennifer Torgrude, a parent with two children set to attend Appleton East, expressed her disbelief at the school's decision to segregate students right from the start.

“I can’t believe that they would, we would segregate students out of the gate just like that,” said Torgrude.

She emphasized the importance of treating all students equally, regardless of their background.

“Why would you separate students on the basis of color? The year 2023 and I feel like we’re back in 1973,” said Torgrude.

Her sentiments resonated with many Facebook users who shared their disappointment with the event's exclusivity.

One user commented, “As a previous “student of color” who grew up in the Fox Valley, being singled out like this would have made me feel so awkward and embarrassed. At that age, and even as an adult, I would expect to be treated like the rest of my peers.”

In response, the Appleton Area School District issued a statement.

“The Appleton Area School District has clarified the intent of the Freshmen Meet and Greet with the East Cultural Advisor and emphasized the event is open, and has always been open, to all incoming 9th-grade Appleton East students and their families. This clarification was shared earlier this week, on Tuesday afternoon, with Appleton East 9th-grade families. We also reminded East families of the four additional opportunities for 9th-grade students that have the purpose of setting them up for success in their high school careers and connecting them with the staff that will help them to ensure that success,” said AASD.

However, Torgrude and others believe the initial post was only for students of color, and that her children didn’t understand why the event left people out.

“They see human beings, they see characteristics, they see kind, they see funny, they don’t see someone’s skin color, they don’t see someone’s ability so now we’re pointing out the color of someone’s skin now we’re pointing out the difference,” said Torgrude.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty weighed in, highlighting that dividing students by race goes against the principles of inclusivity and diversity.

“The Appleton area school district is endorsing the idea that orientation should be segregated among those of one race versus another race,” said Dan Lennington, W.I.L.L. deputy counsel.

Torgrude echoed the sentiment, emphasizing the importance of not only opening the event but also addressing the situation responsibly.

“Just tell the truth… just say like this was our heart, this was our intention… I’m sorry is not an admission of guilt but gosh, I am sorry that it created such a ruckus,” said Torgrude.

The Facebook post has garnered significant attention, with more than 700 comments and 300 shares. It has started a much-needed dialogue within the community.

The scheduled back-to-school event will continue Tuesday night and, according to the Appleton Area School District, is now open to all incoming freshmen.