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Posted February 13, 2014

 Travelers, to Editorial in PDF format

-EDITORIAL-

 

Where are the African American Males on School Boards?

By Arelya J. Mitchell, Publisher/Editor-in-Chief

The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway

On February 18, 2014, an important appointment is to be made on the Columbus City School Board. Underlying this decision is a problem which has plagued many community school boards but is so seldom acknowledged: A lack of Black males. 

The Columbus Municipal School Board has no Black male member.

This is not about reverse sexism, but rather about a problem which has become exacerbated in the 21st Century. Black male role models are persistently either portrayed as prison inmates or criminals or incapable of academic achievement. Yes, the Black athlete stereotypes continue but even they are portrayed as potential orange jumpsuit models.

Mississippi has one of the highest Black male incarceration rates in the nation. It has one of the highest school drop-out rates of Black males.

 

Ironically, Columbus, Mississippi’s first African American mayor, Robert Smith who began his career in the education system, will be one of those making this pivotal decision along with the City Council on appointing the next school board member on February 18. Smith served 30 years as a teacher, coach, and principal in the Columbus and Lowndes County school system – not 30 years in a penitentiary which could have been the case if he were a young Black male in a 21st Century where more prisons than schools are being built.

In 2005, a hysterical African American mother approached us when she was called to juvenile court.  Her 11-year-old son had been taken out of the classroom and dispatched there.            

When she got there she discovered he was missing.  No one would tell her where he was. Long story short: We discovered her son had been put on a bus without her knowledge and shipped to a juvenile camp in Columbia, Mississippi.  We covered extensively how this young boy and other Black children, especially young Black boys arbitrarily were being placed in these camps. This young boy was immediately released after our relentless pursuit and advocacy in getting him home to his mother. During this coverage, we discovered a high number of other young Black boys in these so-called juvenile camps. And to add salt to the wound in this particular case we covered, this young Black male was a special education student; thus, giving credence to the accusations of these ‘cells’ being filled just to be filled due to unrealistic zero tolerance policies in public school systems where African American males are usually the first and sometimes the only ones to be taken from the classroom directly to juvenile court.                                 

The U.S. Justice Department lawsuit, initiated by the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center), was filed against this camp and other Mississippi juvenile camps and was settled in 2010.

This coverage and during this lawsuit, SPLC Deputy Legal Director Sheila Bedi contacted The Mid-South Tribune to inform us that what this young boy was going through was only the tip of the iceberg. SPLC had made the following report to the Justice Department: “… [I]n November 2009, the federal class action lawsuit alleged that children and teens confined at the facility were subjected to ‘shockingly inhumane’ treatment. They were crammed into small, filthy cells and tormented with the arbitrary use of Mace as a punishment for even the most minor infractions – such as ‘talking too much’ or failing to sit in the ‘back of their cells’… Despite widespread misconceptions, very few of the approximately 100,000 children confined in juvenile detention facilities across the country are alleged to have committed serious offenses. Almost all come from poor households. About two-thirds are African American or Latino.”

These cradle-to-prison tactics, are indicative of an ongoing problem which stems—not wholly from homes—but from a public school education system aiding and abetting this type of conduct regarding mainly the Black male child. 

This is not to say that women or African American women should be left out of the dialogue. They, in fact, are already part of the dialogue. It is time for the Black male to be reintroduced into this dialogue; it is time for the Black male to also be appointed to school boards or to run for school board positions to give balance to these critical boards to make for an overall good community to benefit citizens regardless of race, color, sex, or creed.  

When there is an opportunity to increase Black male role models on school boards then that opportunity should be embraced.

We strongly feel that it is time for a Black male to take his place on the Columbus Municipal School Board.

 

           



 

 

 

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