In a recent article, Boston Public School administrators have allegedly violated the civil rights of Black Latin Academy students by punishing them for social media posts that reveal their opposition to racism. The backlash is a product of a dysfunctional organization. Boston Public School administrators should take an approach that will empower Black students rather that punish them for exercising their civil rights.
According to the article, Latin Academy students punished for social media posts, Latin Academy administrators claim that after the initial #BlackAtBLA campaign some of their classmates “engaged in inappropriate conduct that included social media postings with racially offensive and threatening language.” Troy Henninger went on to say that “school leaders have addressed these behaviors through the BPS Code of Conduct process.” He would not convey how the students were punished.
The code of conduct is a document that many schools use to justify their actions for discipline. Even though schools have more latitude that other law enforcement entities, it does not provide them a vehicle to violate the civil rights of students.
What are the civil rights of the Latin Academy students?
According to the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District decision, students do not lose their constitutional rights upon entering into the schoolhouse. The decision held that the First Amendment applied to public schools too. Administrators are required to demonstrate constitutionally valid reasons for any specific regulation of speech in the school and classroom.
Justice Abe Fortas wrote the majority opinion, holding that the speech regulation at issue in the Tinker case was “based upon an urgent wish to avoid the controversy which might result from the expression, even by the silent symbol of armbands, of opposition to this Nation’s part in the conflagration in Vietnam.” The Court held that for school officials to justify censoring speech, they “must be able to show that [their] action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint,” allowing schools to forbid conduct that would “materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school.”
The Court found that the actions of the Tinkers in wearing armbands did not cause a disruption and held that their activity represented constitutionally protected symbolic speech.
Why is it important that the Latin Academy administrators refrain from violating the civil rights of Black students?
Latin Academy administrators would benefit from understanding the perceptions that many Black students have regarding schools. Black adolescents believe school is a hostile place and teachers are oppression agents. White teachers symbolize the racism Black students have endured throughout their entire lives.
When incorporating students into a marginalized society by slavery, conquest, and colonization, students believe school is detrimental to their identity. Indians, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Blacks share the same experience with having been transported into the United States society against their will and then relegated to subordinate status.
Blacks have learned since slavery that one of the best ways to get ahead is not through merit and talent but by patronizing Whites. This is why Americans of color adapt to a society that does not value their ethnicity, history, heritage, or language by establishing societal survival strategies.
Black parents teach their children how to survive in a world that judges them by the color of their skin by preparing their children to live in a dual cultural world that involves helping them to develop skills for adult roles such as wage earners and parenthood in addition to negotiating a dominant society that has different cultural values. Blacks who live in an urban society and a society that dislikes them for the color of their skin ensure they do not become victims by approaching people with caution, wariness, and a sense of distrust.
Black students do better in school when they believe getting a good education will increase their chances for success. Students who perceive that teachers have favorable feelings toward them have higher achievement levels when teachers have positive views toward them. Children who have positive feelings regarding teachers have higher achievement levels.
The Crux of education is to educate. Latin Academy administrators should use the alleged inappropriate social posts as an opportunity to educate all of their students. The only justification that the Latin Academy administrators could justify is that the social media post could disrupt the school. That is why the initial step for the Black students should be counseling. Once they have received their counseling, they should provide an academic platform for all student to voice their opposition to the violation of their civil rights. Then finally, the Latin Academy administrators should use this opportunity to empower the Black students by teaching this to develop a shared vision with other students and staff resulting in the development of a strategic plan that avoids violating the civil rights of Black students.
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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships and Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”
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