Did You Hear About The Manhattan School Practicing Modern-Day Segregation In Its Classrooms?

July 18, 2018  |  

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One private school in Manhattan has come under fire for implementing a plan to separate students by race in the classroom. The Little Red School House in the West Village had a lot of explaining to do last month when parents discovered how their children were being grouped in 7th and 8th-grade classes for the 2017-2018 school year. According to The New York Post, the school was putting large groups of kids of the same race in the same class at least as far back as 2016. And there had been talks about expanding this policy into the 6th grade.

Given the track we have seen race relations take in the news as of late, a story like this should not come as a surprise. Certainly, we’ve seen parents in more affluent areas be very vocal about bussing in kids from less-fortunate areas in recent years. Yet, here I am, gobsmacked at how blatant a separatist policy this was and how long it took for it to come to light.

To be completely transparent, since this story broke nationally, the school has announced that it will shutter its plan to officially enact this practice. (And some parents have pulled their kids from the school as well.) However, I’m bothered by how covertly this policy was put into action and for how long – the Little Red House had quietly carried out this experiment for at least one full school year.

While kids will often group themselves into homogenous racial groups in social settings, I don’t believe that this is something schools should be deciding for the students as a matter of class assignment policy. It’s odd that the administration would even consider this a viable plan–especially considering how there hadn’t been much explanation as to what prompted the school to try this out. Reportedly, the school handbook states that “research points to the academic, social, and emotional benefits to being in a classroom with others who share racial, ethnic, linguistic, and/or cultural backgrounds.” However, it’s unclear what statistics and findings were cited in this reasoning.

Anecdotes from parents confirm the ambiguity of the policy with one father whose daughter recently graduated from the school telling NY Post, “They weren’t very transparent about it. It was my daughter who immediately noticed that all the kids of color were in one class. If you’re going to have that policy, you need to be upfront.”

Beyond the covert nature of the segregation, I’m concerned about how the quality of education and student-teacher interaction would have been stratified across the classes had the plan not been discovered. If the administration had, in fact, meant to improve academic success for minority students, I’m curious about how it planned to ensure that teachers were an integral part of that success — and whether race would’ve played a part. My fear is that the education would not be (and was not) equitable, which had the potential to put minority students at a disadvantage based on their grouping and the teachers they received. If school administrators had found an excuse to segregate the students, what guarantee was there that the best teachers wouldn’t be funneled to non-minority classrooms? It’s not an overstatement for me to say that this is a blatant example of racism in action, whether it was intentional or not.

It’s unclear how parents of minority students at The Little Red School House are going to move forward, but I would seriously be thinking about moving my child to another school, especially considering the $45,485-per-year tuition at the private institution. If that’s not an option, I imagine these parents will be pressuring the school’s governing body to do a clean sweep of its top administration.

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