In response to violence at the Southwood High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, a group of 40 Black fathers have come together to ensure that the violence stops. They actively monitor the hallways of the school in shifts, resulting in fewer fights, students attending class and an overall morale boost in the school. For many, this is a feel-good story.
On the surface, Black fathers assisting to maintain order at a school of predominantly Black children sounds like a good idea, akin to Black men welcoming hosts of Black children to school. On the surface, that’s a good idea too. However, Black men welcoming Black children to school isn’t the same thing as Black men teaching children in school.
Black fathers monitoring the hallways is cool if you believe that Black men are simply good for policing Black children. Sadly, that’s a reason, if not the primary reason, why Black men are hired to teach in the first place — many white educators believe that’s the value of Black educators. That is the very invisible tax that drives Black men away from the classroom.
Black teachers are good for more than discipline — they can do more. Black teachers are instructional leaders and master teachers. They are mentors, counselors and have the very pedagogical viewpoint necessary for Black children to succeed. It’s why the likelihood of a Black child graduating from high school and attending college increases when they’ve had at least one Black teacher. The likelihood increases when they’ve had more.
In addition, Black students are less likely to be disproportionately disciplined or overly disciplined when under the authority of a Black teacher.
I don’t claim to know the challenges of Southwood High School in Shreveport and I am sure there are challenges. However, the data provide insight. At a school where 73 percent of the students are Black, Black students are disproportionately suspended, according to the U.S. Department of Education Division of Civil Rights. In addition, Black children are disproportionately expelled from school and are the only students both transferred to alternative schools and referred to law enforcement for in-school disciplinary issues.
The same is true for Louisiana in general. Black children are disproportionately suspended, expelled, retained, referred to law enforcement and arrested at school. According to the Louisiana Department of Education, 73 percent of the state’s teachers are white, to which a number of superintendents throughout the state have sounded the alarm.
Yet the narrative surrounding Southwood High School is one of an out-of-control school due to violent Black children, which fuels the very racist rationale that impacts policy decisions.
It’s not that Black men monitoring the halls is a bad thing, however, Black men and women as classroom teachers is even better. Black teachers, in many cases, enter the profession as a calling to support Black children. Teachers often employ culturally relevant teaching or pedagogy (CRP) which affirms the identities of Black children, empowering them to both perform academically and address systemic racism within the communities.
I am not sure about what’s taught in Southwood High School, but I doubt CRP is employed by teachers. It sounds too much like CRT (critical race theory) and the Louisiana legislature is attempting to stop racism being taught in schools.
These Black men are to be commended for disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. However, only utilizing Black people to police as a means of protecting Black children from prison versus utilizing Black people to educate as a means to empower Black children is racism dressed as a real solution, when it’s not.
Rann Miller is director of anti-bias and DEI initiatives as well as a high school social studies teacher for a school district located in Southern New Jersey. He’s also a freelance writer and founder of the Urban Education Mixtape, supporting urban educators and parents of students in urban schools. You can follow him on Twitter @UrbanEdDJ .
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