Wealthy school districts will now have to educate affordable housing students as mandated by a recent New Jersey judges ruling. This influx of students will cause a shift in the way that these schools must conduct their everyday business. Schools can head off the racial complications associated with the new requirement to accept and educate affordable housing students by following the example of the Woodstown-Pilesgrove School District.
It began when the Woodstown-Pilesgrove municipalities agreed to develop ninety-one housing units to satisfy affordable housing legal requirements. As qualified applicants matriculated into their new housing, their children matriculated in the local schools. This transition changed the dynamics of the school’s culture and now officials where faced with the tasks of responding to the educational needs of children of color.
Local activists and parents where not satisfied with the present teaching staff and demanded that former superintendent Tom Coleman advanced his efforts to recruit additional minority teachers that would reflect the new demographics of the student body. Their primary complaints centered on the reduction of minority teaching staff and the refusal to fill an administrative vacancy with a minority candidate.
Superintendent Tom Coleman said he recognized that the district did not fully represent the community and that he would try to remedy the issue. The NAACP believed that no progress had been made, so they requested to be on the agenda for the September 2015 school board meeting. The superintendent responded additionally by formulating an Equity Initiative.
In the first Equity Initiative meeting, Mr. Coleman invited local activist, parents, and Dr. Campbell. He went on to state that “Our teachers, parents, community members don’t have the background or experience in interacting and understanding students from diverse backgrounds. In my experience here, I have seen some instances of people unwittingly without malice intent engaging in behaviors and making comments that can be construed and/or are offensive to people of diverse backgrounds. They aren’t purposely being offensive…they just don’t know how to handle different situations.”
Superintendent Coleman went on to talk about an experience that one of the affordable housing parents encountered. “Mr. Y – a local parent with several children in the school distract – spoke to me and said that we have issues, apologies come forth, and we then move on. However, a few weeks later he’s back with another issue.” Mr. Y told him on a different day, “I’m just tired of shaking hands.” Mr. Coleman said “the principals and others throughout the district feel we need sensitivity training in order to be more aware, more sensitive, more understanding.
Mr. Y went on to describe what had happened to his son. He stated that “the staff was having problems handling his son in school and kept sending him out of the classroom, which meant he wasn’t learning. They then had a meeting and it was recommended to put his son in a smaller group setting. When Mr. Y asked why, they said he’s not learning anything and they have to send him out daily due to behavior. They convinced him that a smaller group would be better. However, they were also going to label him as having a learning disability. Mr. Y asked why they couldn’t help him in some other fashion such as extra help or keeping him after school. He wasn’t able to be in the room with the big group because they kept sending him out. The teacher wasn’t relating to him and was making him feel like an outcast.” The absence of positive teacher student classroom relationships can lead to inappropriate labeling of children as special education qualified.
Mr. Coleman asked another parent to tell his story. The parents son, “[B] was a sophomore. In the classroom one day, the teacher allowed another boy to disrespect his son, calling him a coon, nigger, whatever he wanted to say. A young white guy came to his son’s aid when this happened. The boy who was saying these things to his son actually came to school in his vehicle after basketball practice and stalked his son. A physical education teacher happened to come outside and knew what B was facing; she sent him back up to the school so he would be safe.
The classroom teacher knew what was going on and never did anything. B went to the principal’s office, and the teacher who came outside told the other boy to get in his truck and leave. When Mr. B (student’s father) got here, he found his son had gone to the Principal’s office. He asked [the principal] what he was going to do about it. [The principal] said the boy had issues; his parents were going through divorce, whatever. Mr. B said wait a minute…this is a hate crime, so he went to the police station and said he wanted them to bring the boy to the police station.
The next day, the school wanted to suspend [B]. He now was talking to [the principal], and could tell he was wasting his time. Mr. B came to see Mr. Coleman, but he was busy. So, he made a sign and was walking in front of the school, and he was mad.
A few days later, [B] was on a field trip; there were no problems. On the bus on the way back, someone else got in [B’s] seat so he had to sit with someone else. He’s sitting with this guy, and somebody next to him passed an electronic cigarette to hand to someone else, so he does. The next day when back at school, Mr. B gets a phone call. It was so messed up. He talked with the parents of the other boys involved. There were three black kids involved, and two white girls who actually smoked it. When [B] brought it up to [the principal] that these two girls smoked it, he downplayed it. Mr. B said nothing ever happened to the two girls, but the three black kids were suspended.
These responses from some of the teachers and administrators will become unacceptable to the affordable housing community. These complications will contribute to an atmosphere that is consistent with a racism battle waiting to explode. The racial complaints from the affordable housing families have become non existent since the inception of Dr. Campbell’s there phase process that promotes positive racial teacher student classroom relationships.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
- Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
- Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
- The Raccelerate Formula App
- Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
- The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management
“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