In what one observer called a “ham-handed attempt to control the media,” officials at the Thurgood Marshall Academy, a public school founded by Rev. Calvin Butts’ Abyssinian Development Corp., sent out a memo last week telling parents to refuse to talk to reporters.
The memo was sent out to parents and staff of the school in the wake of the Village Voice’s April 17 article about ADC’s troubles and controversies. One observer point out that the document appears to ignore a little thing we like to call the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
“Just a reminder re: communication with the media,” the unsigned memo begins. “We advise to offer no comment and refer the media to the school main office. Don’t be afraid to say no to a media request, especially if the intention is not clear.”
The memo then gets kind of bizarrely sinister, actually suggesting that talking to the media would endanger the safety of the students. “We intend to protect our children and school community from any media attention that does not benefit the education and safety of our children,” the memo says.
ADC President Ralph Dickerson did not respond to an email message requesting comment.
“It looks desperate,” says one observer. “Who are you to tell these people they don’t have a first amendment right? Isn’t that what we marched for during the civil rights era?”
While ADC officials often tout the achievements of the 216-student elementary school, the Department of Education gave it an overall C grade last year, and an F in student progress.