In a recent article, the Anti-defamation League plans to meet with Pascack Valley Schools superintendent for incidents related to racism in schools. During the past school year several students were suspended for making gestures and remarks consistent with White supremacist. Pascack Valley Schools will need to empower teachers to eliminate racism in schools by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships.
According to the article, the Pascack Valley School is predominately White student body serving the towns of Hillsdale and River Vale. This affluent school is frequently identified a one of the top schools in the state for academic performance.
In the past year, school officials have found two swastikas. On was drawn on a piece of paper and the other carved into a door in a stairwell. White power graffiti has been found in a school bathroom.
School officials have responded by sending letters home to parents as well as holding an assembly where students responded on social media to reduce any possibility of racism in schools.
The superintendent has planned additional events which are designed to promote tolerance at school including additional staff training for identifying the signs of racism.
What are some of the signs of racism in schools?
Schools encompass cultural expectations that present challenges for Black students. Schools and Black student conflict result from expectation differences. The lack of cultural coordination and negative teacher expectations result in hidden and often unintended conflict between teachers and their students. Many Black students believe White teachers have low expectations of the students’ ability and worthiness. Black students believe their teachers are more prejudiced toward them when compared to White students and indicate a strong feeling of rejection. White teachers rate Black students more negatively when compared to White students.
Teachers who are culturally different from their students have a greater challenge creating a trusting environment when cultural diversity and race factors are not put on the table by the school and students perceive these factors as important to their identity and school success. School leaders must stop blaming Black children’s problems and accept the fact that much of the responsibility rests within the school system.
Many school social codes are unfamiliar and diametrically opposed to culturally diverse student home codes. Blacks have difficulty with school instructional concepts and ideas that are absent in their community, culture, or economic environment that ignore or misrepresent their present condition. We find this evident in many Social Studies courses. Most, if not all elementary and secondary school curriculum are focused towards White middle-class students. Public schools continue to have culturally based philosophies and curriculum that focus on White European and Judeo-Christian values.
School instructional procedures include cultural values, perceptions, and orientations that differ from those of Black students. Students who are not interested in school may meet teacher demands for compliance with resistance. Blacks acquire cultural values, attitudes, and learning styles that conflict with values, attitudes, and learning styles needed for success in public schools. Exposing minority students to conditions such as limited parental access to economic and educational resources, conflicting ideas about cultural transmission and primary language use in the home, and interaction style that does not prepare students for typical teacher-student interaction patterns prepare students for school failure before they begin to attend school.
In school, students become passive informational recipients while in their culture they are involved in a learning experience that is give and take, and in one situation, they may be the learner and in another situation, they are the teacher.
A review of the New Jersey Department of Education performance assessment reveals that racism in schools at the Pascack Valley High School is easily hidden.
Some of the questions that should be answered are:
- What percentage of discipline represents Black students?
- What percentage of Black students excel academically?
- What percentage of Black students take Advanced Placement courses?
- Do guidance counselors readily recruit minority 9th grade students to attend the school?
- How does the school ensure that Black student voices and desires are heard via student counsel representation?
- What percentage of Black students represent student after school activities other than athletics?
- What proof do White teachers have regarding efforts to enlist Black students in after school programs other than dance and athletics?
The ultimate way for Pascack Valley Schools to eliminate racism in schools is to promote positive racial teacher student classroom relationships (Properateasclaships).
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012
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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
“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