Bertie High School students engage in protest

Published 5:15 pm Friday, May 10, 2024

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WINDSOR – Students at Bertie High School expressed their dismay here Tuesday after learning that Darrius Wesson would not return as the Falcons head football coach.

Darrius Wesson

According to information provided by Bertie County Schools, Wesson shared the news via his Facebook page, which prompted several students to express their concerns by holding up signs and voicing their dissatisfaction. That “protest” came in a hallway during a time when the students were in between classes.

“The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to peacefully protest, and the students exercised that right,” said Janice Ricks, the school system’s Public Information Officer, in response to an inquiry sent by this newspaper.

“However, Bertie County School Board policy 4315 states that students are prohibited from disrupting teaching, the orderly conduct of school activities, or any other lawful function of the school or school system,” Ricks continued. “While students have the right to peacefully protest, they must ensure that their actions do not disrupt the educational environment or interfere with the functioning of the school.”

Ricks added that the Bertie County Board of Education takes student safety and well-being very seriously.

“They respect the student’s right to protest, but they also expect students to adhere to the policy guidelines set forth by the school,” she said. “The school administration is actively monitoring the situation and working to maintain a harmonious learning environment for all students.

“Bertie High School remains committed to providing a safe and supportive environment for students to learn and grow. The protest [Tuesday] served as an opportunity for students to express their concerns, and the administration and faculty will continue to engage with students to address any issues or concerns they may have,” Ricks added.

Wesson, a 2009 graduate of Bertie High School, was hired in March of last year as the Falcons head football coach. He inherited a program that had won only six games from 2019-2022.

After a slow start to the 2023 season, Wesson and the Falcons won two of the final three regular season games and then defeated Southside in the opening round of the state Class 1A playoffs, their first post-season victory in 16 years.

Bertie finished with a 4-7 overall record, with all of their games on the road due to their home field (Roy Bond Stadium) undergoing a major renovation.

“I want to thank Bertie High School for the opportunity to serve as head coach,” Wesson said on his Facebook page earlier this week. “It’s been an honor to lead this team, and I’m grateful for the support of the players, staff, and fans. Unfortunately, the organization has decided to move in a different direction, and I respect their decision.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together and wish the team continued success in the future,” Wesson added. “I truly wish I had more than one year to implement the winning pedigree I believed in but I understand Bertie County Schools had other plans.”

In addition to Wesson, an administrative decision has been made to not renew the contract of Bertie High School’s varsity boys head basketball coach Johnnie Rascoe Jr. In his three seasons at Bertie, Rascoe complied a 61-25 overall record, to include back-to-back 26-win seasons that saw the Falcons capture two consecutive Four Rivers Conference Tournament championships and reach the Eastern 1A Regional finals.

Johnnie Rascoe Jr.

“The games we played in that span were bigger for the community than the games sometimes,” Rascoe posted this week on his Facebook page. “It was a place where people from all walks of life could come together and support their school. I saw so many friends that I hadn’t seen in years and family that drove many miles just to attend a basketball game. It was humbling and exciting at the same time.

“I was informed that Bertie High wanted to go in a different direction, and I wish the Falcons the best. My heart still pumps Bertie Blue Blood,” Rascoe added.

The Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald has learned that Wesson and Rascoe currently remain employed with Bertie County Schools, both serving as CTE (Career Technical Education) teachers.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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