In a recent incident, the death of a local Baltimore resident Freddie Gray has prompted demonstrations and looting amid calls for peace that have resulted from alleged police brutality. Presently, the town has shut down to include schools, businesses, and government offices. The Freddie Gray incident has provided opportunities for teachers to transform the perceptions that Black students have regarding the intentions of White teachers.
According to the article, Mr. Freddie Gray was chased and restrained by the police on bicycles at the Gilmor Homes, a public housing development in northwest Baltimore, on the morning of April 12; a cellphone video of his arrest shows him being dragged into a police transport van, seemingly limp, and screaming in pain.
The police have acknowledged that he should have received medical treatment immediately at the scene of the arrest, and have also said that he rode in the van unbuckled, prompting speculation here that he may have been given a “rough ride,” in which he was intentionally jostled. After officers got him to the police station, medics rushed him to the hospital, where he slipped into a coma and died on April 19.
Six officers have been suspended with pay while the Baltimore Police Department carries out a criminal investigation. (Some demonstrators on Saturday carried signs reading, “No paid vacations.”) The Justice Department is also reviewing the case for possible civil rights violations, and Mr. Gray’s family has hired a third party to conduct an independent investigation.
Angry youths could be seen surrounding a police cruiser and smashing its windows in what police described as an organized attack by criminals — not demonstrators. Cars were set on fire, and stores’ windows were smashed in. Heavy smoke poured out of a CVS drugstore, which had earlier been overrun by looters. Looting was also reported at several other businesses, including a liquor store and a check-cashing shop as well as stores within the Mondawmin Mall.
Many of the youths in Baltimore will perceive the same power structure that the police have with that of the Baltimore City teachers.
This perception will cause friction between teachers and students as well as students and students. Students who perceive teachers in the same category as the Baltimore police who were involved in the Freddie Gray incident will have disagreements with teachers.
Some minorities believe they cannot trust White institutions. Adolescents may develop oppositional social identities that are contrary to the social expectations of mainstream society when they experience racism and respond with anger and rebellion. Black students are convinced that White teachers are racist and prejudiced and reject White teachers’ authority due to their experience with racism. These perceptions will lead to conflict between teachers and Black students as a result of the Freddie Gray incident.
This perception will cause fights amongst students. Some students will take the side of the teachers and the police while other students will stand in opposition of the teachers. This will become the cause for many fights amongst students. These differences in opinions will lead to bullying too.
Baltimore City teachers can respond to the Freddie Gray incident by utilizing the following steps:
- When students return to your classroom greet them with a smile. Since Blacks often probe beyond a given statement to find out where a person is “coming from,” a smile will reveal the intentions of the teachers. Furthermore, cognitive learning increases when teachers smile at the class and students. Teachers who smile are perceived as friendly while a frowning teacher is perceived as mean or grumpy.
- Develop a lesson plan that will facilitate a discussion regarding the Freddie Gray incident. Open the lesson with the following statement: I am your teacher and I want to ensure the success of your future. Therefore we are going to talk about the Freddie Gray incident.
- Make sure that your lesson plans aligns with the Baltimore City Public Schools curriculum. Design a rubric that uses PowerPoint presentation. Schools require Black students to demonstrate achievement by writing, which requires Black students to transition from demonstrating by oral or dramatic expression activities that Black students are more comfortable with and more likely to have higher achievement levels
- Avoid any lesson plan regarding Freddie Gray that requires a classroom question and answer session between the teacher and students. Cultural conflicts between the teacher and Black students may surface because of basic question-and-answer sessions because question-and-answer sessions develop when an adult is angry with them. Blacks learn that question-and-answer sessions result when an adult is angry with them, and this process may inhibit students from classroom involvement.
- Have students to work in cooperative learning groups. When teachers require only cognitive activities, Black students feel the request is unnatural and have difficulty following the teacher’s request, which results in frustration and withdrawal for Black students. When Black students do not honor the teacher’s request to participate in cognitive activities, teachers perceive that Black students lack preparation or ability.
The most important aspect of the lesson is that the teacher must not voice their personal opinion regarding the Freddie Gray incident.
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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