> Published Wednesday, March 1, 2000, in the Miami Herald
> Schools fail racial equity, report states
> BY ROBERT SANCHEZ
> rsanchez at herald.com
> Racial bias is pervasive in America's public school
> systems, including Miami-Dade County's,
> according to a report due out today from a
> self-described ``progressive think tank'' in Oakland, Calif.
> ``If racial equity were a required course,'' the strongly
> worded report from the Applied Research
> Center begins, ``most U.S. public school systems
> would receive a failing grade.
> ``Throughout the nation, public schools subject
> African-American, Latino and Native American
> students to a special kind of `racial profiling':
> On the road to a decent education, students who are
> brown or black can expect to be pulled over frequently
> while their white counterparts whiz by.''
> The report cites the relatively large numbers of
> African Americans suspended or expelled for
> disciplinary reasons under policies of ``zero
> tolerance'' for drugs, weapons and violence -- and the
> relatively low participation by African American and
> Latino students in most advanced and gifted
> In Miami-Dade, one of the 12 school districts in
> the report, African Americans account for 33
> percent of enrollment, but 48 percent of the
> students suspended or expelled. In San Francisco,
> African Americans account for only 18 percent of
> enrollment, but 56 percent of those suspended or
> Meanwhile, in each district for which data was available,
> African Americans' rates of participation in advanced
> placement or gifted programs lagged behind their share
> of enrollment -- and Hispanic students lagged in most
> districts, though not in Miami-Dade.
> The report's evaluation of individual school districts
> gave Miami-Dade a passing grade in only one
> of six categories -- graduation rate -- while failing
> it in the rest.
> No other district did better than pass in a single
> category, and five districts failed in all of them. The
> report's pass-fail grading standards put a premium
> on statistical proportionality by race and ethnicity.
> Libero Della Piana, one of three researchers who
> authored the 36-page report, said racism is a
> factor in the statistical findings: ``Combine this with
> anecdotal evidence, and we see that there is a
> difference in how kids are treated. And when we
> tracked why kids are suspended, a huge number of
> suspensions are for `defiance of authority.' Yet many
> districts can't define it. . . . Kids -- mainly boys --
> are being suspended for talking back,'' Della Piana
> said in an interview.
> Pat Tornillo, executive vice president of the United
> Teachers of Dade, conceded that ``the report is
> probably right about the statistics,'' but added that
> discipline can't be ignored.
> ``Defiance of authority is a big problem for teachers in
> general. It's not necessarily confined to blacks; it's students, period.''
> Regarding Miami-Dade's suspensions and expulsions of
> minorities, Tornillo said, ``This is not the first
> time that this issue has come up. The Justice Department
> came in a few years back and did their own assessment.
> They found that there was no pattern, no systematic bias
> to sustain the charges of bias.''
> Still, state Rep. Frederica S. Wilson -- a former teacher,
> principal and School Board member who founded 500
> Role Models of Excellence to match mentors with
> African-American boys -- says there's a problem of perceptions.
> ``There is this perception that African-American boys are
> inherently violent, evil and angry. And that's how they are
> perceived in society. Yet and still, we had a rash of school
> shootings all across this nation, and not one African-American
> boy pulled the trigger.''
> Miami-Dade school officials said they would not comment,
> because they had not seen the report.
> Applied Research Center's Web site is www.arc.org.