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Outside the John A. Wilson Building this morning, a group of mothers from Alice Deal Junior High School in Tenleytown stood on the sidewalk waving signs and yelling, “Abuse is real at Deal,” and “Fire the racist bully principal.”
The principal in question, Melissa Kim, is known to students and parents as a strict disciplinarian. The mothers say Kim is targeting black and Hispanic kids at the school. They say she pushes and pinches students, rams them in the back with a walkie talkie and barks orders loud enough to make students cry. And since late April, the mothers have been doing their best to get Kim fired. This morning, they planed to bring their message to the D.C. Council.
“We really try to stay away from the race issue, but it is what it is,” said Lisa Foster, a mother who turned out in a polka-dot dress, a red baseball cap that reads “Stop the Cover Up,” and tall heels. “We think she’s a racist.”
Asked where Kim is from, Foster said she didn’t really know. “Korea, I think. Maybe North Korea.”
Since late April, the mothers (three at first, now eight) have stood in front of the school at 7:30 a.m. and waived their banners. So far, Kim has not spoken publicly about the issue. She was not at the school today to comment.
Thus far, the protesters’ pleas have had much of an impact. Sarah Whitener, chair of the school’s restructuring team, said Kim has the support of most parents and the school system. “She is strict. She has to be strict,” Whitener said. “If she wasn’t trying to maintain order in a junior high, it would be out of control.”
So this morning, the protesters had another plan. Soon after the council session began, the Deal mothers filed in to the chamber and spread out. Soon Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry was wearing one of their red hats.
Perhaps the women took it as a sign. As the council discussed the budget, Foster and the other women stood up and unfurled a banner. “Save Alice Deal! Fire the principal! Stop the cover-up!” Foster and the other women yelled.
The women were promptly thrown out. Barry took off his hat. The budget discussion continued.
Outside, the women regrouped near an elevator and regaled each other with stories about the outburst. “Did you hear me?” Foster asked another woman. “I yelled ‘Boo-yeah!’ You hear that?”