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Principal, Parents Tangle Over Race Questionnaire

classroomCan a school principal ask her staff to report how often the black kids are getting in trouble? What about calling for a report of how many Hispanic troublemakers are sitting in the classrooms?

Parents say Claudia Moore-Hamilton was crossing a racial line when she asked her teachers to fill out a questionnaire regarding racial make-up of their students in relation to behavior problems.

Moore-Hamilton, who happens to be black, says she was simply trying to fulfill the district’s requests for “ethnic and gender-specific disaggregated data.” She admits she went about it the wrong way.

Reading the questionnaire itself, it’s hard to tell who’s right here. The questions are hardly scientific, asking teachers a list of common questions about behavior with space to fill in the number of black students, the number of Hispanic students and the number of “other.”

I could envision an investigation into whether children of a certain race are bearing the brunt of TOO MUCH discipline by a racist staff or another race receiving little punishment for their actions (again, by a racist staff). Reports over the years have found this sort of problem – especially with black boys, who are often targeted for simply being black (yes, that stuff still happens, sadly).

But if we’re to assume this principal trusts her teachers are doling out appropriate discipline (she doesn’t ask for descriptions of the infractions, so we have to assume she does),  does it really matter what ethnic group troubled kids fit into? Is she going to take this information off to district headquarters and ask for the Hispanic kids to be zoned out of her school? Or maybe the black kids? Because knowing a child’s race is not going to change much. Knowing what types of infractions kids are causing, maybe a little about whether they come from broken families, whether they’re eating breakfast, whether they’re showing up ready for school . . . that will give you a handle on what the problems are and how to fix them.

A more appropriate survey would have simply asked for the number of students for whom the teacher has had to call parent conferences, the number of students for whom a referral is written two to three times per week, etc.

You can read the questionnaire over at MyFoxNY. Come back and tell us what you think.

Image: MsDuverge

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