Thursday, October 21, 2010

Education Week and a Student's View on Disproportionate Punishment of Black Male Students in Delaware

By Morgan Jerkins '14

From October 11th to 16th, the Students for Education Reform, Teach for America, and the USG co-sponsored Education Week, a weeklong campaign to raise awareness of current issues in American public education. These associations used documentaries, teaching and leadership workshops, lectures and study breaks to encourage undergraduates to take active roles in education reform.

Soon after the week ended, I stumbled across an article about a public education issue in Delaware that I thought might pertain to the Princeton community. Investigators are questioning whether or not black males are punished disproportionately in certain school districts in Wilmington and Newark. I interviewed Briyana Davis ’13, an aspiring sociology major who intends to explore inequalities in the education systems of the U.S.

• Q1. How has this article made you feel as an Ivy-League student and an African-American?
• A. This article wasn’t really surprising to me, though I still believe it is an obvious issue that needs to be solved. This is just one more situation to add to my list of reasons why I need to somehow change the world.
• Q2. Do you have any ideas on how to equalize this supposed bigotry in school districts?
• A. I think more understanding on the part of individual teachers and administrators could be a start. In the Delaware case, I think the policies regarding discipline need to be revised. I think the potential causes of this disparity should be identified and educators should be aware of them so they can avoid stereotyping and punish students more appropriately.

Though one cannot say that racism fueled this particular case in Delaware, at least the government is aware of a problem that is very prevalent in specific school districts. This particular type of awareness can trickle down to undergraduates students like Davis who can one day strengthen the system with impartiality and empathy.