School field trip has some North Port parents, students upset

Several parents are upset with their kids' middle school after school leaders offered a field trip to African-American students only.

Because of so many complaints, Heron Creek Middle School administrators have since opened up the field trip to all students.

Students said they were shocked Monday when the school's principal made an unusual announcement over the intercom.

"They had an assembly for all African-American students," Alannah Ferguson, a student, said.

"We had about four African-American kids in our class that day. They all got dismissed for some reason," Loucille Helton said.

"One of my daughter's friends apparently asked the teachers, 'Well I'm mixed. Do I go or not?' And she was told no," Amanda Sullivan said.

The select students in grades 6th, 7th and 8th were chosen to attend a field trip because of "their good grades, good behavior and community service," according to a news release sent Wednesday evening by Sarasota County Schools spokesperson Scott Ferguson.

The African-American students were given the opportunity to go on a field trip to see "Black Violin;" an American Hip-Hop duo from Florida classically trained in string instruments.

School Administrators explained in the statement: "The idea to offer this opportunity to a specific group of students was motivated by a desire to give African-American students a chance to see a performance of talented African-American musicians as role models."

Hailey Warren aspires to learn the violin and felt slighted since she initially wasn't able to attend.

"After I knew that there was a field trip included with it to go see a violinist, I really wished I was on the list," she said.

The field trip scheduled for January 12 to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota is now open to all students who meet the same academic and behavior criteria, regardless of their race or background.