Sunday, February 22, 2009

Black State University sued for racial bias

Student says aid denied because she is not black

A Tennessee State University student from Guam has sued the historically black Nashville school in federal court on grounds of racial discrimination. In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Angela Cela accuses TSU and three faculty members of violating her civil rights. The complaint says TSU refused to give Cela, a Pacific Islander, a financial grant available to graduate students in speech pathology and audiology because she isn't black. "You can't do those things anymore," said Hal Hardin, one of Cela's lawyers and a former U.S. attorney for Middle Tennessee.

Cheryl Bates-Lee, a TSU spokeswoman, declined to comment.

The legal action comes less than three years after TSU emerged from a court order - cited in Cela's lawsuit - that required the university to work to become more attractive to students of all races. A federal judge lifted the order in September 2006, declaring that TSU and other public universities had met their obligations. TSU is getting $40 million from the settlement of the case. It is using the money to create a $30 million endowment and pursue programs to boost and diversify enrollment.

The court order grew out of a lawsuit filed in 1968 by Rita Sanders Geier, a TSU instructor who argued the state was maintaining a dual, race-based system of higher education. But George Barrett, Geier's attorney, said Cela's suit has nothing to do with the Geier case. That case is over," Barrett said. "The court found that we have a unitary system." Cela's suit seeks to create a class action. Hardin said he wouldn't know how many students had been discriminated against until he could see the university's data, but he was aware of "several."

Two generations after Geier took the state to court, TSU remains predominantly black. White students made up 21.9 percent of the student body last fall.

Susanne Bonds is white, 23 and two years into her physical therapy doctoral program at TSU. Bonds opted to attend TSU because she wanted to study in her hometown and could afford it. She said she has heard about financial aid delays from black and white students and experienced a mix-up with paperwork that caused her health insurance to lapse. But she isn't convinced her experiences had anything to do with race. "I have no idea why they are the way they are, slow to get things done," Bonds said. "But I don't feel like I've been treated differently because of the color of my skin."

Jonathan Ramsey, an African-American business management student, finds it hard to believe nonblack students are being mistreated as a group. "Honestly, if anything, I would say that TSU is looking to grow the university," said Ramsey, 24, of St. Louis. "So they aren't looking to turn people away or turn people off."

According to the suit, Cela sought a grant in March 2007 to help her enroll in graduate school at TSU the following August. But she didn't receive any information on her request before classes started. In February 2008, Harold Mitchell, head of the department of speech and audiology, told Cela she didn't qualify for the grant because she wasn't black, the complaint says. Cela told Mitchell that Pacific Islanders were represented even less than African-Americans in the field of speech pathology.

"Ms. Cela stated that she was advised by several of her professors that this entire situation could have been avoided had she announced that she was not white," the suit says. "Then and there Dr. Mitchell stated: 'Well, what do you expect? You are at an historically black university. You have to know the backdrop and understand our professors' point of view when they converse with white students.' Mitchell's department offered Cela a grant retroactively, but she had already found other funding.


Quality teachers in British government schools

Teacher who used crack cocaine and fell asleep during lessons allowed to keep his job

A teacher who admitted using crack cocaine and falling asleep during lessons has been allowed to keep his job at the Government's newest academy school. William Horseman, who now teaches at the Merchants Academy in Withywood, Bristol, was a user of crack cocaine during 2005 and 2006 when he was working at Ridings High School, in nearby Winterbourne. He admitted one count of unacceptable professional conduct at a hearing of the General Teaching Council on Thursday.

It was told that on six occasions he failed to turn up for work at Ridings and fell asleep during lessons and on a school trip to a zoo in 2006 and 2007. He was found to be a user of the class A drug after an incident in a Bristol flat in where he had his car stolen, and after calling the police, admitted to them he used the class A drug.

The maths teacher, who was not represented at the hearing in Birmingham, told the panel committee he 'had learnt his lesson' and wanted to move forward. Mr Horseman, who had worked at the Ridings school for 25 years, said he wanted to rebuild a reputation that he had spent a long time constructing. Asked why he had used the drug, Mr Horseman replied: 'I was unhappy at home, I wanted to get out. Nobody has ever caught me doing it, the only reason is I admitted it. 'I'm not proud, I'm ashamed and I've learnt a lesson from it.'

Mr Horseman told the panel he had only taken the class A drug for three to four months. When asked by a committee member how he could stop taking such an addictive drug, Mr Horseman said that after being found out, he 'had no wish or desire to carry on'. 'The situation frightened me,' he added. Aaron King, chairman of the GTC committee, said: 'The use of crack cocaine a class A drug by any member of the teaching profession is completely unacceptable.'

But Mr Horseman was allowed to carry on teaching at the 23million pound Merchants Academy. Mr King said the panel had taken into consideration his 'candour in accepting his past failings' and 'various stressful circumstances in his personal life at the time'. He added: 'We accept his assurance that such conduct will not be repeated. 'We have decided given the seriousness of the matters proved, a period of further monitoring of Mr Horseman's teaching progress is appropriate. We have therefore decided to impose a conditional order.' The conditions of the order specify that three times per year he will provide to the GTC a report from his employer confirming satisfactory conduct. It will remain in place for two years.


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