UPDATE: Bright Futures school founder responds after being accused of using racial slur

Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 6:05 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Philip Ross, who was accused of using a racial slur at the Bright Futures school in Atlanta and was terminated because of it, has issued a statement:

Based upon current events along with my termination from Bright Futures, it is important for everyone to understand what happened that day because this did not happen the way it was portrayed to the media.

I feel it’s important that people understand that my wife and I have been helping these underserved youth for over 20 years. As a minister, I felt called to help these kids to escape the cycle of violence and poverty that exists in our community.

Therefore, my wife and I started Bright Futures academy in order to provide these young people a private education and spiritual guidance and give them the chance to rise above their circumstances.

We were so dedicated and committed to these kids that we actually sold our home in the northern suburbs and moved to Bankhead so that we could be near these kids. Once we started the organization, we opened our home to provide activities and a safe haven for kids in the afternoons, after school. They weren’t just students to us; they became like family.

From there we opened the BF Academy and raised money to provide them an education at no cost. All of these young people were provided a safe educational environment, along with meals and after school programs to keep them off the streets. We then personally delivered them safely home and started over the next day. I drove the bus and began teaching them and my wife prepared all the meals for lunch, as well as after school.

As kids were getting ready to graduate from Bright Futures, my wife and I assisted them in filling out college applications and, once they were accepted into a college, we helped them with funding, scholarships and student loans. Once accepted, we even purchased their books and belongings and physically moved them into the dorms.

We started small and slowly built up a Board of Directors that would assist us in raising awareness and money to provide more and more scholarships for these kids.

As I stated, my wife and I have been working hard for over twenty years to help change these kids’ lives. We’ve kept our salaries small because we wanted to provide larger salaries to our outstanding teachers. Moreover, our board never provided us a retirement account.

On the day in question, I went to see how the kids were doing on the playground, when I heard students cussing at each other and screaming the f word and the n word at each other. I became very upset and frustrated because one of our teachers was watching them and allowed them to engage in this poor behavior. I then screamed the N word once to get their attention. I did not use this word multiple times.

As soon as I screamed the word, it got their attention and they stopped. Some students began to laugh. I told them that it was improper to be shouting these words to each other and at least one of the students responded that they used the N word because it was part of their “culture”. I told them that did not make it right and I did not want those words used at Bright Futures.

I should not have used this word and I deeply regret doing so.

Following my apology, the Bright Futures Board gave me the option of resigning or being terminated. I chose not to resign because of my commitment to the kids. I was expecting and hoping for some grace

and forgiveness to be given me for my 2 decades of dedication to these students and the school we provided them, but no forgiveness was forthcoming. My only purpose in speaking out at this time is to provide the entire story. I am not in any way, shape or form a racist, as evidenced by the path I have chosen. If I had to do it all over again, I would not have used the word.

To be clear, it is not a job to us, it was our calling. These kids’ lives were, BY CHOICE, woven into the fabric of our lives. You don’t do that with people that you don’t love, and respect and we are devastated by the way that I am being portrayed in this scenario.

My wife and I feel abandoned by the organization that we started. Even though we left penniless, we have no hard feelings. God saw fit to provide us with this mission and he will open new doors for us.


On the west side of Atlanta, Bright Futures is a school of about 100 students known for teaching and transforming the youth.

Atlanta News First toured the school three years ago when the Executive Director, Philip Ross, announced expansion plans. Now Ross finds himself in the middle of controversy.

According to a spokesperson with the Human Resources Department, Philip Ross told HR that he used a racial slur while speaking to a group of students but claims he was trying to use the “n” word as a teaching moment.

“Bright Futures has a zero-tolerance policy for this type of behavior, zero. No matter who you are or the position you might hold with the organization their goal is always to provide strong role models that will be mirrored by peers and modeled by those they serve. So, with this in mind Bright Futures is in the midst of their own internal investigation to learn as much as they can about the situation,” Bright Futures Spokesperson Robin Derryberry said.

RELATED: Peoria school investigated for racial harassment.

Bright Futures spokesperson said the board of directors took immediate action upon learning about the incident and removed Ross from any further involvement in the school.

“Within two hours of finding out about it, their board took immediate swift action, and the executive director is no longer affiliated with the organization,” Derryberry said.

The school intends to continue its investigation into the incident to determine if further actions should be taken.

“This school is doing everything they can to protect their students and everybody else involved with the organization to make sure one that we send a signal out that it’s not tolerated and two to protect those that they serve,” Derryberry said.

Derryberry told Atlanta News First that Ross’ wife Gail, who is also a school co-founder, has been suspended with pay until the investigation is complete and they don’t believe she has any tie to her husband’s comments. We have made multiple attempts to contact Ross’ for comment and have not been able to reach them.