It’s no secret that many of the schools in this country’s education system are not designed for the success of Black children. We see it in the culturally biased exam questions, in the disproportionate rates in which Black students are disciplined in comparison to their White peers. We see it in the ways our history is conveniently left, both in this country and abroad, is conveniently left out of the books.
One high school in Seattle, Washington showed just how far and just how much work we still have to do when they presented their African American students with a “Keepin’ it 100” covenant. You know from the title alone that it was some bullsh*t. The Franklin High school covenant asked the African American students pledge that they would do better. It asked them to be on time for school, graduate, and hold themselves accountable for meeting the high expectations set for them. The covenant did not go over well because…African American students aren’t the only ones who struggle with graduation, truancy, and meeting the expectations of those around them and most importantly, themselves.
Senior, Bazia Potts said, “We were upset because the whole 12th grade class got the paper but it was supposed to be for us. I know I felt embarrassed and my peers felt embarrassed as well.”
Many of the students refused to sign the pledge. Some even threw it in the garbage.
Niva Thomas, a junior at Franklin, said “Every student counts in the school, I feel like if you gave [a pledge] to one culture, you should have given it to the others as well.”
Nina’s mother said, “I don’t think [students] read that letter feeling encouraged, uplifted at all. They walked away feeling like I can’t do enough, I still didn’t make it. It felt like these African American students weren’t good enough, that they didn’t somehow make the mark, that part was hurtful because we all want to send a positive message to our students.
When confronted with the racially problematic pledge, Seattle Public Schools issued a statement.
“Seattle Public Schools is committed to eliminating opportunity gaps and accelerating learning for each and every student. A student covenant was recently created by staff at Franklin High School. After meeting with senior students, Franklin staff discontinued the covenant as it proved to be a distraction from their original intent which is to increase efforts and support for African American students and ensure college readiness.
In addition, a parent/community advisory group is under development to increase the school’s collective wisdom, inform their practices and build capacity to reach the goal of 100% of African American students college ready.”
This is so disgusting. The teachers in this school didn’t even take the time to get to know these students before they issued this type of pledge. October is very early in the school year to make these type of damning assumptions about any student. And if it was the school system’s intention to encourage and motivate the students, they did the complete opposite. Perhaps the reason so many African American students in Seattle and the country at large are not engaged is not because they need to do better but because the schools need to.