DeKalb Schools settle science center discrimination suit

Updated:

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga.,None - Channel 2 Action News has learned the DeKalb County School system has settled a racial discrimination suit filed by a day care owner over an encounter at the Fernbank Science Center.

 

Changes are also under way at the Fernbank Science Center after the south Fulton day care owner claimed she and a group of kids were kicked out of a picnic area of the center because of the color of the their skin.

 

"It was racial discrimination. It was definitely racial discrimination," Happy Times Childcare owner KiKi Finch told Channel 2’s Tom Jones last year.

 

That's how Finch described what happened during a September 2010 lunchtime trip to the Fernbank Science Center, which is owned by DeKalb County Schools.

 

"We were told, 'You're not feeding those kids here,'" Finch said.

 

At the time, she told Jones a security guard told her and 11 kids from the center, an all-black group, that they couldn't eat at one of the picnic tables and threatened to call police.  They ended up eating on a termite-infested retaining wall, Finch said.

 

Minutes later, Finch said she saw another group eating at the same tables, but those kids were white. Finch filed a discrimination suit, which the school district settled last month. Channel 2’s Aaron Diamant stopped by Happy Times on Monday, but Finch wouldn’t speak to him as part of the settlement’s confidentiality agreement. It is unclear if the settlement included a payout.

 

The picnic area where the run-in occurred is now gone, but a school district spokesman told Diamant it will name a new picnic area at the museum after the center as part of the terms of the settlement, “in recognition of the center and the work it does in the community," DeKalb Schools spokesman Walter Woods said.

 

The newly named picnic area is set to open December, but the school system declined to give Diamant a glimpse of it.

 

Visitors called the situation a learning opportunity.

 

"We just try to teach our kids that there's not a difference. We might have different color skin. We may speak different languages, but that doesn't make us less of an important person," parent Mandy Spivy said.

 

NOTE: The Fernbank Museum of Natural History is not connected with the Fernbank Science Center and is not associated in any way with the story.