In a recent article, a local Los Angeles teacher made some alleged racial remarks for which it seems that school leader condones racism in education. Presently, the student is in fear of her safety at the school. The school will have to transform the perception that students have of teachers regarding racism in education.

According to the article, on Jan. 16, the day after the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Carnine handed out a questionnaire that asked about racial stereotypes, according to the plaintiff.

During the ensuing discussion, Carnine brought up the shooting of Michael Brown by former Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, the lawsuit states.

“In discussing the incident, Carnine said that the guy was a thug and he got what he deserved,” according to the suit, which alleges that the teacher also said, “Black people are judged for not being smart because they are not smart. A lot of them are just athletes.”

Carnine went on to say that if he was walking alone at night and there were two black men behind him, he was “immediately going to be scared and think they are either going to steal from me or hurt me,” the lawsuit alleges.

The teacher also allegedly said, “We all know Jews like to hoard their money.”

However, that same day, Carnine, during a lecture on the Civil War, stated that “people didn’t like Lincoln because he was a (N-word) lover,” the complaint alleges. Carnine was “staring and smirking” at the plaintiff when he made the remark, according to the suit.

The girl’s father returned to the school with her mother and godmother to speak with school officials to protest the latest alleged remarks. Assistant Principal Thomas Iannucci, while saying he would investigate Carnine’s alleged comments, also was dismissive of the complaints and said “there is no need to go to the press,” according to the suit.

The response of the assistant principal is an indication of the behavior of a dysfunctional organization which has resulted in racism in education.

The Dysfunctional Organization

There are five different levels that contribute to a dysfunctional organization. The foundation for the dysfunctional organization begins with each person’s use of defense mechanisms for coping. Defense mechanisms are the unwritten rules an individual learns and utilizes to effectively deal with circumstances that are upsetting, embarrassing, or threatening.

The second level is skilled incompetence, which is the outcome of the defense mechanisms we have internalized. When the defensive behaviors we’ve learned are transformed into a learned behavior, that behavior becomes a skill – albeit an incompetent skill – that we consider necessary in order to deal with issues that are embarrassing, threatening, or upsetting. A skill that is learned from the regular application of a defense mechanism has a high degree of incompetence embedded within it, because we are unaware of how this skill will impact our future.

Skilled incompetence transforms into a defensive routine. Defensive routines are the third level. When the skilled incompetence is automatically exhibited at all times, the behavior is now a defensive routine.

Defensive routines lead to fancy footwork. Fancy footwork is the fourth level. Fancy footwork happens when individuals try to deny the behavioral inconsistencies they exhibit, or else they place blame on other people, which results in distancing themselves from taking responsibility for their behavioral inconsistencies.

Fancy footwork leads to organizational malaise. Organizational malaise is the final level. During this phase the individuals in the organization – which in a church includes church leaders – will seek to find fault within the organization rather than accept responsibility for their actions and correct their behavior accordingly. The individual continues the process by accentuating the negative and deemphasizing the positive in an effort to cover up their actions. The organizational malaise is further exacerbated by a refusal of one or all the members to discuss their area of responsibility.

The following response from the article is an example of organizational malaise.

Assistant Principal Thomas Iannucci, while saying he would investigate Carnine’s alleged comments, also was dismissive of the complaints and said “there is no need to go to the press,” according to the suit. Effectively, the assistant principal Thomas Iannucci was refusing to discuss the school’s area of responsibility and therefore attempting to make it un-discussible for which contributes to racism in education.

Firing the teacher or school leader will not eliminate the racism in education. It will only drive the problem underground. Because it is part of the school’s culture the only way to eliminate racism in education is to promote positive racial teacher student classroom relationships (Properateasclaships).

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Let’s thwart structural racism in our schools


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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