Recent United States Department of Education data suggest that here has been an increase in the number of racial harassment claims against schools. These claims are money and time consuming as well as an embarrassment for many schools and their staff members. Preventing racial harassment claims will require the empowerment of teachers rather than the many other solutions that only result in depleting the school’s financial resources.

According to the article, Schools See Major Uptick In Racial Harassment, New Data Suggests, parents have opted to become increasingly challenging by filing complaints with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). It would follow that there should be a reduction in these complaints since Betsy Devos who is now head of the United States Department of Education has decreased the number of staff that process racial discrimination complaints. However, the number of racial harassment discrimination complaints that the department’s civil rights division receives has ebbed and flowed over the last nine years. It did not receive more than 600 complaints until fiscal year 2017, when the number climbed to 675, a nearly 25 percent increase from the previous year.

Catherine Lhamon, who ran OCR during the Obama administration, said “Our schools are places that encapsulate and reflect the national climate as well… It is distressingly unsurprising that there might be an uptick in racial harassment complaints coming to OCR.”

Zoe Savitsky, deputy legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, pointed to the numbers as evidence that the Trump administration is creating a toxic national environment that is in turn affecting schools. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center started surveying teachers about how the election had influenced their school’s climate. Many teachers reported seeing an increase in hateful language and attitudes toward marginalized student groups.

It sounds as though teachers are witnessing this tragedy without the appropriate responses. It reminds of a recent encounter that I had with an Black male in the classroom. He was violating a few of the rules set forth by the school. I asked him to step outside so that we could discuss him transforming his behaviors. There were two White female teachers who were sitting outside the classroom on hall duty. Before I began to speak to the young person the first thing that the teachers said was, “If you need to, send him down to the office”. It did not matter that I was attempting to defuse the situation, the only thing that mattered to them was to let me know to exert my power over this student.

These teachers appeared to have set an example for students to follow. If the Black kid is not acting according to the rules, then we should harass him. When the student returned to the class he stated that the assistant principal, a White male, told him to shut his mouth up and do his work.

If schools are going to eliminate racial harassment, then they must begin with exhibiting behaviors in front of White students that are consistent with behaviors that strengthen students rather than degrade them.

The one thing that I understood about this Black student that he was attempting to discover my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher. Black students use several verbal techniques to discover a teacher’s strengths and weaknesses in order to evaluate a teacher’s racial attitudes and locate teachers’ breaking points to help the students empower themselves in the situation between them and the teacher. Abrahams and Gay (1972) reported, “If a [Black student] expects to rise to the position of a leader, he must know how to keep his cool. If he cannot respond to a [teachers challenge] without becoming frustrated and unnerved, he is not likely to have the respect of others or remain a leader for long (p. 205)”.  

It was my attempt to develop a positive relationship with the student in front of his peers. This is the example that teachers must exhibit to prevent racial harassment by developing positive racial teacher student classroom relationships.

Related Articles

Racism in Schools: Harassment Claims Rise as Education Department Scales Back Civil Rights Investigations

Arming teachers would put black and Latino kids in danger

Education Department saw a rise in racial harassment complaints in schools last year

 

 All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
www.positiveracialrelationships.com
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

         
Author of:

  • 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

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“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


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