Wilcox County High School and Racially Segregated Proms

Wilcox County High School

(Photo Credit: nydailynews.com)

Despite meaningful racial progress across the nation, vexing vestiges of the Jim Crow Old South still exist at Wilcox County High School in Rochelle, Georgia.  Although nearly 50% of the student population at Wilcox County High School is composed of Black students, there’s only one Black teacher at the school.  Last year, there were two minority teachers at the school but they both were terminated.  It was last year when Steve Smith, Superintendent of Wilcox County Schools, led the effort to oust a highly popular Black male teacher who was adored by his students, parents, and the community (see “Citizens Want Teachers Back Next Year” published in The Cordele Dispatch; see also “Racial Discrimination and Free Speech Violations at Wilcox County High School” and “Unfair Termination Hearing for Wilcox County High School Black Male English Teacher”).  This is the same school where Superintendent Steve Smith and Principal Chad Davis made the decision to forfeit the first round of the state playoffs for the all-Black varsity boys basketball team in 2012 for a minor off-campus incident that directly involved only one of the players; none of the team members’ parents were consulted before this decision was made and some of the players’ parents stated that Superintendent Steve Smith and Principal Chad Davis are racists (see ““Wilcox County High School Boys Basketball Team Unfairly Forced to Forfeit Playoff Game”).  The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported about how minority students are not being adequately prepared academically for higher education at Wilcox County High School.  Historically, Wilcox County High School has been a site of great racial problems.

On April 3, 2013, various Georgia and Florida news sources reported the fact that Wilcox County High School has always had and continues to have racially segregated proms, and Black and White female students at the school are joining forces to fight to have the school’s first racially integrated prom.  The students have requested to use campus facilities to host the integrated prom, but Wilcox County School officials have denied their request.  Wilcox County School officials have not made any substantial efforts to end racially segregated proms.  They have adopted a hands-off approach, arguing that they leave decisions and organization of proms to students and parents.  A hands-off approach to the problem of racially segregated proms is an endorsement of the status quo (which does not accommodate students’ desire to host an integrated prom on campus).

The failure of Superintendent Steve Smith, Principal Chad Davis, and the Wilcox Board of Education to allow students to use campus facilities to host the school’s first racially integrated prom ostensibly means they support racially segregated proms.  Most schools across the nation sponsor school proms.  Is it possible that Superintendent Steve Smith and the Wilcox County Board of Education are not sponsoring a school prom to avoid explicitly having to state that they don’t want racially integrated proms at Wilcox County High School?  This is certainly possible.

Before last year, all aspects of Homecoming were racially segregated but it was decided to elect only one Homecoming court this past Homecoming.  In the past, there was a Homecoming court elected for each racial group.  The Homecoming dances are still racially segregated and the school has not made any substantial efforts to end racially segregated Homecoming dances.

Last year, when a biracial Wilcox County High School student attempted to attend the “White Prom,” he was prevented from attending by police officers.  Yes, this happened in 2012—no need to get your eyes checked!

Superintendent Steve Smith is also a Church Pastor.  Under his leadership, racially segregated proms and Homecomings are taking place, however.  It’s time for Superintendent Steve Smith to ask what would Jesus do in response to racially segregated proms.  Jesus would not support racially segregated proms and he would not deny students the right to host an integrated prom on campus.  In addition, Jesus would not simply leave decisions about proms in the hands of students and parents, especially when those proms have continued to remain racially segregated.

If Wilcox County School officials were really sincere about their claims to be Christians and their claims to do what’s in the best interests of the students, then they will no longer continue to deny students the right to host a racially integrated prom on campus, and will not continue to take a hands-off approach in responding to racially segregated proms.

If you support the effort of Wilcox County High School students to have a racially integrated prom on the Wilcox County High School campus and disagree with the decisions of Superintendent Steve Smith, Principal Chad Davis, and the Wilcox County Board of Education to not allow a racially integrated prom to take place on campus, then call and/or email Superintendent Steve Smith at (229) 467-2141 and smiths@wilcox.k12.ga.us and call and/or email Principal Chad Davis at (229) 365-7231 and davisc@wilcox.k12.ga.us to let them know how you feel.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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14 comments

    1. The police officers denied the biracial student the right to enter the “White Prom” on the simple basis of not being White. That’s a Jim Crow practice. The school is trying to pretend like they are staying above the race issues involved in this matter by claiming a hands-off approach, but by not taking substantial efforts to hold a racially integrated prom on campus they are endorsing racially segregated proms. They still have not addressed the issue of why they are denying students the right to host the integrated prom on campus when others are granted access to the campus for less important things.

  1. Wow, its just crazy to see that this is even a issue. SOmetimes things never change… you would’ve thought that being that its 2013 that things would have changed somewhat… its sad.

    Things need to change this is unacceptable.

    1. It is my hope that the national attention this issue is getting will lead to change. I plan to be actively involved in getting change to happen at that school and in that county. Indeed, it’s crazy that Jim Crow is still living in Wilcox County, especially at Wilcox County High School. This is unacceptable in the 21st century, indeed.

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