ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - The principal of Campbell Park Elementary School in Pinellas County tried to explain what she meant when she wrote "white students should be in the same class" in an email to teachers regarding class placements for the next school year.
Principal Christine Hoffman sent the email to teachers Tuesday, April 18 with the subject line "class lists." On Thursday, after meeting with teachers about the email, Hoffman sent an apology.
"I would like to follow up on my meeting with teachers on Tuesday regarding class lists and the poor judgment I used in an e-mail that went to all our teachers and para professionals. In taking time to reflect on my actions, I felt it was important to write to all of you and share my thoughts. I made a mistake, and I am sorry."
Hoffman's first email, however, had already made its way to the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP, as well as some parents and media outlets. Facing increasing backlash, Hoffman sent a letter to parents on Friday, to "provide information regarding action [she] took in planning for next school year."
"Because I value transparent communication, I would like to provide information on what happened."
Hoffman said in the letter, "As a white woman leading a predominately black school, I am approaching this as an opportunity to learn. Although I have participated in training on diversity and implicit bias, this recent incident makes it clear that I need to seek additional opportunities to apply racial sensitivity and cultural competence in my work."
Hoffman said her intention was to ensure there were no classes "with only one white student."
"I was not asking that all white students in each grade be clustered, as that is not our practice in creating class lists. I understand how racially insensitive the guideline was," Hoffman said in the letter.
Of the roughly 560 students enrolled at Campbell Park Elementary - dubbed a "failure factory" in a series of reports from the Tampa Bay Times last year - is about 80 percent black, according to the U.S. Department of Education's CDC public school data charts. White students make up 13.7 percent of enrollment, Hispanic students make up 3.2 percent of enrollment, and students of other race or ethnicities make up 3.2 percent of enrollment at Campbell Park.
Hoffman's emails did not address placements for non-white students.
In a video linked from Campbell Park Elementary's website titled "Campbell Park Elementary Principal's Message," Hoffman says she has worked in Pinellas County schools for 26 years.
"As a parent, I know the value of a strong, inclusive class where scholars are encouraged," Hoffman says in the video. "I'm committed to ensuring all my scholars are provided opportunities to do their best everyday."
The school district told FOX 13 News on Friday that it is not the district's policy to group students by race, and that Principal Hoffman may face disciplinary action.
The district said it would not provide further comment, directing us to Principal Hoffman's letter to parents.
Stay with FOX 13 News on this developing story.