COMMENTARY: Racism in Schools is on the Rise; What Do We Do?

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Sadly, the Poulsbo Elementary School incident is just one of many similar N-word episodes that seem to be permeating America’s public school system.

It’s not just a local issue confined to Poulsbo. It’s a troubling pattern in public schools across the country.

In Chicago, for example, a white school teacher who was suspended last year for leading a class discussion about the “N-word,” race relations and racism, has sued the school district for what he sees as unjust punishment.

In Philadelphia, racially charged text messages were behind the resignations of two school administrators. A 100-page transcript provided by sources last year revealed a series of N-word-laden text messages were exchanged between Coatesville Area School District Superintendent Richard Como and Director of Athletics and Activities Jim Donato. The messages were written and received on district-issued cell phones.

And last year, during a Hartford, Connecticut magnet school field trip, black students were told by teachers to participate in a slavery reenactment, complete with use of the N-word, where students had to pretend their instructors were slave masters. They were also told to pretend to pick cotton and to imagine they were aboard a slave ship.

The blatant use of the N-word by public school teachers didn’t start last year. In 2008, in Louisville, Kentucky, a Valley Traditional High School teacher, Paul Dawson, was suspended for 10 days for telling a black student: “Sit down ni***.” Dawson said he felt comfortable using the N-word because black students use the N-word liberally and he felt by using the N-word, he had a better connection with his students.

So what should America’s public school administrators do about this pattern of racism in our schools? Do they need to do a better job of vetting teachers? Should schools offer mandatory cultural sensitivity training classes? How do we stop teachers from using the N-word in classrooms while teaching black students?

What do you think?

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