The public reaction to the recent presidential travel band has placed schools in the hot seat for involving students in discussions regarding racism. It is a mistake for many schools to take on this type of initiative. Schools that have a history of disproportionate discipline or a prominent achievement gap are asking for a “black eye”. Or even worst, an onslaught of civil rights complaints. Schools must implement a two step process that involves empowering teachers before considering having student discussions regarding racism.
According to the article, Arlington High School ‘teach-in’ draws mixed reaction, the efforts to involve students in discussions regarding racism by Arlington High School in LaGrangeville, NY has failed. It was reported that several parents complained about the schools initiative and the related workshops were not well attended by the majority of the student body.
The teach-in was designed as a day-long “in-school field trip,” said Arlington Superintendent of Schools Brendan Lyons. If students wanted to attend all eight periods, they needed a permission slip. Students who only attended for one period with their teachers during class did not need a permission slip.
The majority of the school’s students did not attend the teach-in, Lyons added. “There were maybe 50 students per period,” and some of those students were among those with permission slips, attending the full day. This is the equivalent of 12% of the student population participation in the school district’s initiative. A grade of ‘F’ for their efforts.
The problem begins with the structure of the initiative. The first challenge is the content of the workshops. The speakers included Vassar history professor Maria Höhn, one of the founders of the Mid-Hudson Refugee Solidarity Alliance, Mehmet Kucukozer, an assistant professor at Dutchess Community College, Anwar Kearney, an imam (prayer leader) of Masjid al Mutakabbir in Poughkeepsie, and the school’s resource officer, a Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office deputy, among others. It appears that the concentration of instruction centered on the dilemma that has been created by the recent presidential travel band and the consequences for violating the law.
The second problem is associated with the process for developing the initiative to involve students in discussions regarding racism. According to the article, the event drew complaints from a handful of parents, some of whom questioned the content of the event and the speakers, while others felt the school did not give proper notice to parents. Additionally, “the district saw some traffic (comments about the teach-in) on our Facebook page,” Lyons said. “I got a call, the high school principal did probably take eight to 10 calls” of complaints. The school did not make a concerted effort to include historically underserved parents and the community.
What is the two step process that is needed before involving students in discussions regarding racism?
The first step is to eliminate disproportionate discipline. It is a well known fact that disproportionate discipline is the first indicator of a school or school district that embraces the perception of racism. The United States Department of Education reported that while Black students represent 16 percent of the U.S. student population, they accounted for 32 percent of the students suspended and 42 percent of those expelled. Black students also experience the highest rate of multiple suspensions.
How can a school expect to transform students thinking through the involvement of student discussion regarding racism without first ensuring that they themselves are not the perpetuators? Schools can eliminate disproportionate discipline by using the Raccelerate Formula.
The second step is to eliminate the perception of racism in their school or school district. One of the primary factors of a school that possesses the perception of racism is the feedback from historically underserved students and parents. The best way to eliminate this perception is through an initiative that Promotes Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships. Schools can utilize the Raccelerate Achievement Portfolio (R.A.P) to evaluate the perception of racism in their school before entertaining the need for student discussions regarding racism.
All the best,
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 Raccelerate Phenomenon
Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”
~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools
“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”
~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President