More news on race and children in America.
I offer this information as news. I have tried not to editorialize much here but to listen to what others are saying.
Somewhere in this country, people are suspending preschoolers and most of them are children of color or Special Education students. (I didn't even know you could suspend a pre-schooler.) This story from the Huffington Post. It's a wide-ranging report that goes from preschool thru high school and examines not just discipline but offerings in districts throughout the country.
A staggering new report
released by the Department of Education and the Justice Department on
Friday highlights a troubling pattern of zero-tolerance school
discipline policies that disproportionately impact minority students in
general, but also trickle down to the nation’s youngest students.
While black children represent only 18% of preschool enrollment
nationally, they make up 42% of students suspended once and nearly half
of students who are suspended more than once, according to the report,
an analysis of Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) data for the
2011-2012 school year.
The release is the first comprehensive look at civil rights data in
nearly 15 years, including data from all 97,000 of the nation’s public
schools, representing 49 million students. According to the Department
of Education’s Office for Civil Rights,
the release of this year’s report is the first time in which such
detailed information on school data from the state, district and school
level has been made available via a searchable database.
Minority students have less access to experienced teachers. Most
minority students and English language learners are stuck in schools
with the most new teachers. Seven percent of black students attend
schools where as many as 20 percent of teachers fail to meet license and
certification requirements. And one in four school districts pay
teachers in less-diverse high schools $5,000 more than teachers in
schools with higher black and Latino student enrollment.
Meanwhile President Obama has launched a new campaign - My Brother's Keeper - an initiative with "leading foundations and businesses" to build "ladders of opportunity" for boys of color.
We can learn from communities that are partnering with local businesses
and foundations to connect these boys and young men to mentoring,
support networks, and skills they need to find a good job or go to
college and work their way up into the middle class. And the
Administration will do its part by helping to identify and promote
programs that work.
That starts by using proven tools that expand opportunity at key moments
in the lives of these young people. The President believes this
includes ensuring access to basic health, nutrition, and to high-quality
early education to get these kids reading and ready for school at the
youngest age. But that’s not enough. We need to partner with
communities and police to reduce violence and make our classrooms and
streets safer. And we need to help these young men stay in school and
find a good job– so they have the opportunity to reach their full
potential, contribute to their communities and build decent lives for
themselves and their families.
Over at the New York Times, they have a great feature, Room for Debate, where they have 5-6 "experts" on any given topic weigh in on what they think of current thinking/action on the topic. They did this for My Brother's Keeper and it is an interesting conversation.
From Imani Perry, a professor in the Center for African-American Studies at Princeston:
The president states: “No matter how much the community chips in, it’s
ultimately going to be up to these young men and all the young men who
are out there to step up and seize responsibility for their own lives.”
He speaks of “bad choices” and believes “nothing keeps a young man out
of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life.” In
this way, black boys and their families are being held primarily
responsible for the bigotry they encounter. Their vulnerability is
There is far less emphasis in the initiative on the responsibility of Americans to disavow racial bigotry.
I believe those two paragraphs may hold the key (albeit rough and large) about the conversation about race in the United States. I wonder if this issue of "fault" is bogging down the conversation to the point where it's hard to move ahead and make change.
(She also says this: My second concern is the emphasis on public-private partnerships and
philanthropy. Philanthropy is not policy. And private institutions do
not have the well-being of citizens or residents as their primary
concern. I agree.)
Another writer, Cory S. Anderson, VP of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, has this viewpoint:
President Obama’s approach, painting a bright red target on the problem,
is the only worthwhile strategy at his level. To be clear, the targets
are not boys and men of color. The targets are systematic inequities and disparate outcomes.
I like this because we move away from a narrative to an action.
Another writer, Luke C. Harris, an associate professor of American politics/constitutional law at Vassar College, has this to say about this issue of more black boys being raised by a single mother:
Lots of black boys grow up under similar social circumstances — that is,
in households with women struggling to make ends meet. Focusing on the
personal responsibility of absent fathers while marginalizing the
economic, social and spiritual needs of their very “present” mothers
forwards the gendered idea that fathers are the solution not only to
“the problem” of the black family, but also to “the problem” of the
Again, is the issue of struggling children of color being raised by mostly poor women versus the idea that the issue is growing up without a father. (Two loving and caring parents seems best but no child controls that issue and neither does society. ) It's the poverty that may be worse for these children than having a single parent seems to be what he seems to be saying.
Frank Rudy Cooper, a law professor at Suffolk University Law School, also brings up another good point:
If the president’s initiative can recognize how race and gender work
together, it might be better able to address the “cool vs. school”
dilemma. A boy of color who focuses on academic success – rather than
just a narrow band of “cool” pursuits like sports, music and girls –
tends to have his racial credentials challenged. In order to allow young
men of color to excel academically, we will have to break down norms
about what it means to act “cool” that are associated with norms about
what it means to be manly.
This is a real problem in our country and in our city and in our district. The SPS Strategic Plan has - in its 2013-2014 budget:
- implementation of professional development activities to increase cultural competency among all staff
- initiatives to address disproportionality in student discipline;
- recruit and retain more teachers of color and more culturally competent teachers and leaders. (I note here that Director Martin-Morris - when HR was giving its report at the Work Session - said that HR efforts should be on culturally competent teachers because his experience was that he found that teachers who were culturally competent were as important as teachers of color.)
I'm not sure where they are with these plans so far. Maybe it's a good time to ask.
I have gone back and forth in my head about whether to allow comments.
I have found this to be a difficult conversation because - for whatever reason - people stiffen up on race. I had a recent experience coming back from the Network for Public Education conference where it was noted that conference had few people of color. One person said the Network needed to do a better job of outreach. (I agree but I will just say that the Network operates on a shoestring and this was their first attempt at a conference.)
But boy, once that door was open about how to attract more people of color, the conversation did not go well.
And I believe that is because while face-to-face discussions on race are REALLY hard, the second hardest (and, subject to more misinterpretation) is writing about what you believe about race.
I have decided to open the comments but if the conversation shows signs of breaking down, I'll close it. Please do not attack anyone or call anyone racist. I know that we all have our own personal views but please keep it civil. Offer experiences but don't believe yours in the only one. And understand that as most here are anonymous, you have no idea what life experiences others have had or their backgrounds.