In a recent article, Missouri Governor – Jay Nixon – is planning to create a commission that will make recommendations for overcoming local racial inequalities for which the Ferguson Public School District can make the most contributions. According to Mr. Nixon, the commission will include representatives from various social and economic backgrounds.
Nixon believes that the commission needs to hear all voices which include the children to ensure that the Ferguson region becomes a fairer place for people to live. St. Louis Alderman – Antonio French – believes that the commission will not accomplish anything but remains hopeful. Nixon and his commission can accomplish much but they will have to depend off the Ferguson Public School District to make monumental contributions.
Whenever you look to change a system such as the Ferguson region, you must look for a point of inflection. Each person that is presently a citizen of the Ferguson region has attended a school during their lifetime. Therefore, each Ferguson citizen has sat in a classroom and for most people in the Ferguson region they are a product of the Ferguson Public Schools. In summary, the classroom in the Ferguson Public School District is the battle ground that will produce equality for all of its citizens.
Ferguson inequality begins in the Ferguson Public Schools. The first inequality exist in the drop out rate for Black students. According to the Missouri Department of Education the drop out rate for Black students in 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011 was 639, 440, 605, and 643 students respectively. Over a four year period, this is a yearly average of 437 Black students that drop out of school. Over a twenty year period this equals 8,740 Black students who drop out of school.
Potentially, there are over 400 hundred students who will become imprisoned because they have dropped out of school. The education to prison pipeline involves interactions with the police which is normally a negative interaction. Overtime, many high school drop outs develop a hatred for the police because they did not have success in the Ferguson Public School District.
The high school drop out seems to have its greatest impact amongst Blacks. Nearly one in four Blacks males are incarcerated or institutionalized. Seventy-five percent of crimes committed in the US is committed by a high school drop out. The only way to decrease crime in this nation is to increase the number of graduates who otherwise have been pushed out of the Ferguson Public School District for a number of reasons.
The picture is even bleaker for African-Americans, with nearly one in four young black male dropouts incarcerated or otherwise institutionalized on an average day, the study said. That compares with about one in 14 young, male, white, Asian or Hispanic dropouts.
According to the National Dropout Prevention Network/Center, most students who drop out of school are more likely to be pushed out of school due to school factors. Those school factors include:
- Missed too many school days
- Was getting poor grades/failing school
- Could not keep up with schoolwork
- Thought could not complete course requirements
- Could not get along with teachers
- Could not get along with others
- Was suspended
- Thought would fail competency test
- Did not feel safe
- Was expelled
Many students who drop out of school are experiencing little success in the classroom and with their teachers. Even though Black students account for more than 70% of the student population in the Ferguson Public School District, their performance is not significantly above when compared with students of other ethnicities.
This lack of success has hurt the Ferguson community in several areas. The lack of success creates distrust between White teachers and Black students. Black students are able to witness students of other ethnicities prospering with their education but because they are not as successful it impacts their choices after leaving the Ferguson Public School District.
The unemployment rate for Blacks in Ferguson is 16 percent compared to 8.6 percent for Whites. The Ferguson Black population is 13,753 and the White population is 6,494. According to these statistics, there are 2,200 unemployed Blacks compared to 558 unemployed Whites.
This distrust can create bitterness between Whites and Blacks, especially between White cops and Black males because the Black male who did not have as much success in the classroom will blame the White teacher and this bitterness is transferred to any other White figure who has authority in their community.
The distrust between Whites and Blacks also hurts the business community. Since the local Blacks are less likely to get jobs in their community, when there is civil unrest, Blacks are more likely to lash out at the businesses that would not hire them. Many businesses will not hire Blacks who are educationally under qualified. Becoming qualified for employment normally begins with education and the education provided from the Ferguson Public Schools is paramount.
There is also a distrust that White cops develop towards Blacks because of the racism in the classroom. Many of the teachers in the Ferguson Public Schools are White females who are considered middle class. Many of these White females have either a direct or indirect association with the middle class police. If the Black students are a challenge for the White female in the classroom this message is conveyed either directly or indirectly. This will alter the perception of the White police person even before they have an interaction with a Black person. Since the White females actions in the classroom are limited, the reaction of the White police person is excessive. This is actually in alignment with the Raccelerate Phenomenon.
The efforts by the Missouri governor are commendable. However, the Missouri governor must address the impact that racial tensions between Black students and Ferguson Public School White teachers has impacted the Ferguson community.
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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