Providence Day School Under Fire For Expelling Black Student After His Mom Complained About “Fences”

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Some words seem to matter very much to the adults who run Providence Day School. They want to make it clear that 14-year-old Jamel Van Rensalier was not “expelled” from the school he’s attended since he was 4; instead, they say his “enrollment was terminated.”

Terminated, they say, because of the words his mother, attorney Faith Fox, used in an email to a Black school administrator. Fox wrote, in part, “You fail miserably at your job and are a disgrace to the Black community. I am embarrassed for you as a so-called expert and representative of the school. You stopped working here years ago…if you ever did.”

Fox was upset that the school, she says, repeatedly dismissed her concern (and the concern of several other parents) that classes of primarily white 9th grade students would be reading aloud and discussing Fences, a play by August Wilson that uses the n-word repeatedly.

Fox tells WCCB TV’s Morgan Fogarty, “If I don’t speak up for my son, who’s going to?” And, “I’m just so disappointed that the school decided to take this route.”

The head of school says, in part, “The enrollment agreement was terminated not because (Fox) complained or questioned the use of the book Fences in her child’s ninth grade class. The action occurred because (Fox) continued a pattern of verbal harassment.”

Fox denies verbally harassing anyone, but will say, “We could have had a conversation about the tone of my email, which I’m not particularly proud of.”

Online, Providence Day’s action, and its statement, are being sharply criticized. People are writing things like:
“This letter reeks of white privilege.”
“You’re choosing to protect your faculty from criticism rather than the most vulnerable of your students.”
“As an alum, I beg of you to reconsider your response and role in this matter,” and more.

As for Jamel, the 14-year-old tells WCCB he is proud of his mom: “I’m glad the way she’s handling it.” He wants to go back to Providence Day, with a different book in the curriculum. “Yeah, I wanna go back. But not under the same circumstances,” he says.

Fences remains in Providence Day School’s curriculum. We asked whether the school would consider letting Jamel re-enroll. A spokeswoman said it’s “not appropriate to answer that at this time.”