TUSCUMBIA, Ala. (WAFF) - Colbert County Superintendent Gale Satchel is defending remarks she made last week during a rally at the courthouse. She tells our news partners at the Times Daily that “a lot of systemic racism goes overlooked that doesn’t make the news.”
Satchel spoke during a June 1st protest against racism. Since the speech, she’s seen some criticism for the tone of her remarks. Speaking with the Times Daily, she said she was simply trying to be heard over a large and loud crowd, and that she stands by what she said.
Satchel cited several personal examples from her own life, including incidents of her child being called the n-word, being told in meetings that she was hiring too many black employees, and her husband being called a “gorilla”. She also took issue with critics, saying they don’t realize the double standard they’ve set for her. “When a black woman is making a passionate point, it’s called yelling and disrespectful, while her white counterpart is called a strong woman,” she said.
During the speech, Satchel cited data that black students are sent to principal’s officers and expelled more frequently that other children. “I just cannot turn a blind eye to these things, but what it amounts to is people just don’t want to hear the truth,” she said. Satchel later clarified that the data she was citing wasn’t necessarily from Colbert County, but from first-hand experience in other local systems.
Retired Muscle Shoals Police Lieutenant Mark Goins said he was shocked by the statements and accused her of “pandering to her audience to get votes”. “I couldn’t believe the words coming from the mouth of someone of her professional caliber and position,” he said. “She not only slammed her own (county’s) officers, but her own teachers and half her students.”
According to the Civil Rights Data Collection site, a 2016 survey for Colbert County showed white students represented 86% of in-school suspensions, 77% of out-of-school suspensions, 100% of expulsions and 82% of all corporal punishments.
School board member Ricky Saint said the school system's incident numbers don't support Satchel's statement about racial disparity in the area of discipline, but in fact reflect the overall makeup of the system.
District wide, Colbert County is comprised of 82% white students and 13% black students.
Another school board member, Thomas Burgess, downplayed the reaction to the speech. “I think the backlash is totally political,” he said. “I’m not aware of racist incidents in the school system, but I do know there’s prejudice going on there among parents and others, always has been.”