In a recent article, a Californian middle school has placed a school principal on administrative leave for making a racist remark. The school principal was video taped making a statement about Black students in the school. Teachers must respond by ensuring that a racist remark made by a school principal does not interfere with the instructional or disciplinary process in their classroom.
The racist remark incident became a national video on YouTube. In the video, DiFilippo, who looks relaxed and is wearing dark sunglasses, is chatting with some students while one of them records the conversation (it’s unclear whether the vice principal knows if he’s being recorded or not). A student off camera asks him, “Who at this school do you not like?” while another asks, “All of us?” That’s when DiFilippo responds, “I just don’t like the black kids.” The incident is presently under investigation and the school principal has been place on administrative leave.
Black students responded by protesting because they believed that they were targeted by school principal when it came to discipline. According to the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights report, Blacks are targeted for higher levels of discipline consequences when compared to White students. Therefore, the Black students should be concerned. This heightened concern due to the racist remark will find its way into the teachers classroom in several forms.
Some students will agree with the racist remark. They will feel that many of the problems that are keeping them from learning is a result of having Black students in the school. They will ascertain that many of the discipline problems between the teacher and the Black students interfere with learning in the classroom. On the other hand, some students will disagree with the racist remark. They will feel that they have been unfairly bullied by the school principal and teachers. When these differences in opinion are voiced by the opposing students the pending result is a clash between the students which can result in increased student fights.
Teacher Student Difficulties
Many of the Black students will associate the same power that the school principal possess with the teachers. They will see the teacher as the source of the problem because many of the referrals that are submitted to the school principal begin with the classroom teacher. This will increase the conflicts between teachers and Black students which will result in increased disciplinary consequences for Black students.
Teacher Parent Difficulties
Black students will convey to their parents that since the school principal made a racist remark then the teachers must be racist too. When teachers make a decision to submit disciplinary referrals it will be met with opposition from the parents. When Black students are not performing will in the teachers classroom the parent is apt to associate the racist remark with the teacher as a racist.
As the students continue to react to the racist remark they will continue to make it more important to ensure that teachers are not racist against them. This will detract from their learning and decrease their likelihood of doing well on standardized testing. They may decide not to do well so that it becomes an embarrassment not only for the teacher but for the school too.
Civil Rights Lawsuit
Now that the school has national attention, the school could possibly undergo an investigation for civil rights violations. Black parents and local civil rights activist may assume that the entire school is racist against Black students because they hired the individual who made the racist remark.
The best way to respond to the racial remark by the school principal is:
- Use the Raccelerate Racism Formula to determine if you could become victimized by civil rights complaint
- The first time that a student acts out after the racial remark discuss in front of the class the expectations for classroom behavior. When you make it a classroom discussion you are also setting the expectations for the entire class. Next, contact the students parent. While you want to talk about the discipline emphasize how the disruptive behavior will impact their grade in the class
- The second time, have the discussion of classroom expectations in front of the class and ask the student do you want to talk to the counselor or the school principal. Then tell the student that you will send the student to the counselor. Contact the parent.
- The third time, have the discussion of classroom expectations in front of the class and send the student to the school principal. Contact the parent
This process will ensure that the discipline in you classroom does not accelerate due to the racist remark as well as reestablishing a fair process for discipline in your classroom.
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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
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