Friday, July 29, 2011

Arkansas High school student alleges racial bias in valedictorian choice‏

With the Left constantly telling blacks that they are discriminated against, you can't blame the kid below for believing it. That a school might not want to promote a single mother as a role model, she has not considered

A black high school valedictorian says in a federal lawsuit that her school discriminated against her when they made her share the stage with a white "co-valedictorian" who had a lower grade point average.

School officials told Kymberly Wimberly, 18, that it was because the other student had more class credits, according to the lawsuit. School officials have said publicly that the valedictorians are chosen based on both grades and difficulty of course work.

Wimberly, who said she was the first black valedictorian in more than 20 years at the tiny high school, believes it was racial.
"I'm trying to prevent students under me from having to go through the same thing," Wimberly told Reuters. "I think it was racially motivated. Everyone knew I had the highest grade point."

Repeated attempts by Reuters on Wednesday to contact school officials and board members were unsuccessful.

A day after learning that she would be the valedictorian of the 2011 graduating class at McGehee Secondary School, she was told that she would have to share the honor with a white, female student. Both students gave valedictory speeches at the May 13th graduation.

Wimberly is seeking injunctive, declaratory and monetary relief from the McGehee School District, the board, the district's superintendent and the school's principal, both individually and in their official capacities. The lawsuit is asking for $75,000 in damages.

The superintendent is black. The principal is white. The lawsuit states the school board is primarily white. Last year, the public school had 340 students in grades nine through 12.

The lawsuit says the actions, "were part of a pattern and practice of school administrators and personnel treating African-American students less favorably than Caucasian students." It also says the school district does not encourage black students to take honors or advanced placement classes.

"I hope this wakes up some of the mentalities of not just the whites but the blacks who are so oppressed because they think it is the only way it has to be," Wimberly said. Wimberly said she graduated with a 4.0 grade point average and took honors and advanced placement classes. She briefly left school during the fall semester of junior year after giving birth to her daughter, missing three weeks of class.

The lawsuit says that she returned in time to take her semester exams. She received a "B" in English that semester, but pulled her grade up to an "A" by spring.

The white student had a lower GPA but more credits. But Wimberly said credits only come into play when two students tie with the same GPA. "They told me I was the valedictorian on Tuesday," Wimberly said. "On Wednesday, they said I had to share and be a co-valedictorian."

Wimberly's mother, Molly Bratton, works at the school as a certified media specialist. On the day Wimberly was notified that she was valedictorian, Bratton went into the copy room and heard staff talking, the lawsuit says.

Some school personnel expressed concern that Wimberly's valedictorian status might cause a "big mess," the suit says. The next day, the co-valedictorian was announced.

Bratton tried to address the school board before graduation about her daughter's situation. She was denied and was told she filled out the wrong form for public comments. "You stand up, and you fight for what you believe in, my dad told me," Wimberly said. "This is your first battle, and we will stand by you, they said."

Wimberly has started college at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. The mother of a one-and-a-half year old daughter, Amiah, Wimberly is majoring in biology and pre-medicine. She wants to earn doctorate and medical degrees.

McGehee is a town of about 5,000 people near the border of Mississippi and Arkansas in the middle of the impoverished Mississippi Delta.


SW Missouri district bans 2 books, including 'Slaughterhouse Five'

Two books have been banned from the libraries and curriculum at Republic High School after a parent complained that their content taught principles contrary to the Bible.

The district's school board voted Monday to remove Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Five" and Sarah Ockler's "Twenty Boy Summer," but to allow Laurie Halse Anderson's "Speak" to be used in the district's high school, The Springfield News-Leader reported.

Superintendent Vern Minor said the board based its decision on the whether the books were age-appropriate. "We very clearly stayed out of discussion about moral issues," Minor said. "Our discussions from the get-go were age-appropriateness."

Wesley Scroggins of Republic, who had challenged the books and lesson plans last year, said he was mostly pleased with the decision. "I congratulate them for doing what's right and removing the two books," said Scroggins. "It's unfortunate they chose to keep the other book."

It took a year to reach a decision because the complaint prompted the 4,500-student district to form a task force to develop book standards for all its schools, Minor said. The panel considered existing policies and public rating systems that already exist for music, TV and video games before adopting new standards in April. Those standards were applied to the three books, Minor said.

Several people read the books and provided feedback.

"It was really good for us to have this discussion," Minor said. "Most schools stay away from this and they get on this rampage, the whole book-banning thing, and that's not the issue here. We're looking at it from a curriculum point of view."

Minor said most people supported keeping "Speak," which is taught in English I and II courses, because although it had one short description of a rape, it had a strong message at the end.

But he said those who read "Twenty Boy Summer," available in the library, thought it sensationalized sexual promiscuity and included questionable language, drunkenness, lying to parents and a lack of remorse. And he said "Slaughterhouse Five" contained crude language and adult themes that are more appropriate for college-age students.

Minor said students will be allowed to use those two books for extra class material if they have their parents' permission.


Don't write off British State schools just yet, Lord Jones

The education system is still potentially the best place to teach youngsters about the world of work

For decades, the entire thrust of Britain’s education policy has been to get as many children as possible into school – and to keep them there. Whether it was setting a target for half of the population to go to university, raising the school leaving age, or even bribing children to stay in school, the secret to success in life was simply “education, education, education”.

Yet there were always those who argued the opposite. Schools, claimed Sir Richard Branson, can stunt entrepreneurship – better for budding tycoons to leave at 15, as he did, and make their own way in the world. Lord Sugar, too, left school at 16. And now Lord Jones, the former trade minister and another early leaver, has said that children should be allowed out of school to work at age 14.

The basic idea here is that, while studious children should still pursue schooling, those who are less academically inclined – whether because they’re too brilliant, too disruptive, or just too bored – should join the workforce, or start vocational training, as soon as possible. “There are loads of kids in school today who at 14 are more mature,” said Lord Jones this week, “and so many of them are disruptive… This isn’t about saying 'School’s out, away you go, kids’, this is about going into a technical college, doing a couple of days a week on a vocational course and going into a business, or indeed a public sector employer, and getting the link in their mind, in their DNA, that if you get better skilled, you make more money.”

Lord Jones grew up in his parents’ corner shop, learning all about customer care at a young age. He claims that while modern employers – especially manufacturers – want to hire skilled British workers, they simply can’t find them, so have to resort to recruiting Poles or Indians instead.

The ambition here is a noble one. But it rests on false assumptions. It is true that many skilled workers here will likely be from Eastern Europe. But what does being “more skilled” mean? Restaurant owners will tell you that they employ Eastern Europeans because they know how to be professional: they turn up on time, look people in the eye, shake hands when necessary, listen attentively, take an interest, sit properly, stand properly, and take pride in their work. Restaurants don’t employ Poles because they are “skilled” waiters, or even experienced ones. The difference is that unlike their British rivals, most have stayed in school until the age of 18, where they have learnt the skills that are necessary for success in the workplace – whatever workplace that might be.

The qualities that Lord Jones and others are looking for are, ironically, the very ones that our schools used to be good at inculcating: how to be professional, how to wear a uniform with pride, how to meet deadlines that count, how to complete homework and do as one was asked. In short, they encouraged students to have a real sense of ownership of their lives.

What the advocates of vocational training are suggesting is, in effect, that the workplace should make up for the failings of the education system. In fact, this is already happening: McDonald’s offers 4,000 of its employees coaching towards Level 1 Literacy, the equivalent of a grade D-G at GCSE, because so many fail to reach the literacy levels expected of an 11 year-old.

In his interview, Lord Jones pointed to the fact that nearly half of our children fail to reach grade C in maths and English. Common sense would suggest that if these children aren’t capable of reaching the required standards, why waste everyone's time by keeping them in school?

This is the second false assumption: that these children are not gifted enough to get these GCSEs. It is a reasonable enough one to make – until you realise the extent of the chaos that exists in many classrooms, the low level of expectation fostered by the system (and resisted by most teachers), and the lack of proper leadership in some of our schools. There are some children who simply aren’t bright enough, and should be encouraged to attend colleges and get work experience: but they are a small minority.

On the homepage of his website, Lord Jones is quoted as saying: “In a fiercely competitive world, we should not compete on cost alone, but on our ingenuity.” Isn’t that what school is meant to be all about? Sure, it’s good to know who Churchill was and how to speak some French – but it’s better to lead the brain through a variety of complex subjects and train it to develop that very ingenuity.

As a child, Lord Jones won a scholarship to Bromsgrove, a public school. He played rugby and hockey for the school, and was even made head boy. A few days before he was due to graduate, he was expelled – with what would have been an excellent record – after streaking around the quadrangle to win a bet.

The irony here is that what taught the young Digby to take risks and go out on a limb was his traditional education. His school inspired him to push the boundaries; when he did so inappropriately, it made sure he paid the price. It is by keeping our standards high in school that children will learn how to succeed in the workplace later. Lord Jones and Sir Richard Branson (who attended Stowe) are the perfect examples.

Looking around at the state of our schools, it’s easy to understand why some people want to throw up their hands and turn to the workplace instead. But before we give up, it’s worth trying to fix the system first.


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