In a recent article, prosecutors that represent the city of Baltimore have decided to indict six police officers regarding the Freddie Gray homicide. While many believe that the police indictments will have a calming impact on students, it may become the catalyst for Black students to point out the perceived injustices in schools. Teachers should use the Freddie Gray incident as an opportunity to transform the perceptions that Black students have regarding teacher intentions.
According to the article, a Baltimore police officer was charged with murder and five others with lesser charges in the death of a black man, Freddie Gray, who suffered a critical neck injury while riding inside a police van, the city’s chief prosecutor said on Friday.
Freddie Gray, who died in hospital a week after his arrest on April 12, was in handcuffs and shackles but otherwise was not restrained inside the van, a violation of police department policy, prosecutor Marilyn Mosby said at a news conference.
The Maryland state medical examiner had ruled Gray’s death a homicide, Mosby said. The officer charged with murder was the driver of the vehicle. She said the officers failed to give Gray the medical attention he asked for and that his arrest was unlawful.
The decision to bring charges and the speed at which Mosby made the announcement, a day after the police department handed over an internal report, seemed to catch Baltimore and the country by surprise.
Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the police vehicle, faces a maximum penalty of 30 years if convicted on the murder count. Other offenses carry prison terms of between three years to 10 years.
Goodson also faces a charge of involuntary manslaughter, as are three others: Sgt. Alicia D. White, Officer William G. Porter and Lt. Brian Rice. All six face lesser charges, including Officer Edward M. Nero and Officer Garrett E. Miller.
The police indictments have bought a feeling of happiness and relief for many Black youths around the country.
Can teachers use this momentum from the Freddie Gray incident to eliminate classroom racism (Elcloomism)?
Racism in the Classroom
Discrimination against marginalized students is a persistent problem in classrooms throughout the United States. Classroom interaction studies have found teachers discriminate against students who are not White, male, and middle class. When cultural awareness between White teachers and Black students is absent, the impending result is interference with effective instructional processes caused by frustration and alienation between White teachers and Black students. Black students have difficulty accepting teachers as the primary source of knowledge due to becoming accustomed to sharing information on an equal basis with adults rather than the adult teaching them. Teachers treat Black high school students as though they are incapable decision makers that require their permission to do everything even though the student has had experience caring for younger brothers and sisters, teaching them safety and personal hygiene skills, and taking care of the home. Black students withdraw from the instructional process or become discontented with whatever the teacher does when the teacher hinders student spontaneity and enthusiasm and punishes the student by requiring the student to raise his or her hand in order to be recognized.
The highly regimented and formalized school setting is diametrically opposed to Black students’ learning experiences. Black children believe people in the school are more important than the school concept and place a higher emphasis on people, particularly teachers, rather than school physical aspects. Blacks learn at an early age to be wary of people and systems within their environment and become socialized to concentrate on people or the social learning aspects. Blacks believe they should interact with other non-Black Americans by being careful and watch what people tell you, be careful and watch what you say, and whites are not always on your side.
Teachers discriminate against students by implementing differential discipline. Teachers with high percentages of Black students in their classroom are more likely to use an authoritarian classroom management approach. Teachers react to Black student learning experiences that are in opposition to traditional public schools by determining Blacks are incapable of following simple rules and therefore make rules that they deem intolerable. Educators justify this procedure with the belief that these students want to be disciplined and have some order in their lives for a change.
Teachers spend more time looking for possible misbehavior by Black students, especially males, and are more prone to respond to Black student behavior by using severe punishments that include corporal punishment and suspensions. The differences between the teachers’ backgrounds that teach them to conform to preset externally fabricated rules and regulations and Black street culture tendencies to derive order as a situation happens cause teachers to resort to punishment for petty rules in order to force obedience at the expense of hindering learning. Blacks believe middle-class teachers are vulnerable and ignorant regarding Black life, which leaves the teachers at a disadvantage because Black students choose the battlefield, strategy, and weapons, which are words, and they possess a skill that enables them to remain cool in these confrontational situations. Black students believe teachers who telephone parents at home to solve disciplinary challenges have an inability to solve their own problems, and these students lose respect for the teacher.
Students frequently test the limitations in an inconsistent classroom by ignoring a teacher’s first, second, and even third request for compliance. When the teacher decides to deliver a consequence, the student claims the teacher is unfair because the same misbehavior does not always receive the same consequence. White teachers are right that their Black students are hostile, resent the authority they represent, quick to anger, and have chips on their shoulders.
Black students react to arbitrary and autocratic White teacher disciplinary assertiveness by believing that a White man is still trying to tell him what to do. Most teachers respond to students who attempt to act tough with them by threatening or talking back to the student. Removing hostile Black students from the classroom only delays the inevitable confrontation between the teacher and the student.
What can teacher do to reduce potential racial tension in the classroom that could result from the Freddie Gray police indictments?
- Smile at the students – 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.
- Use the Raccelerate Racism Formula – Using the Raccelerate Racism Formula to ensure that Blacks are not victimized by the Raccelerate Phenomenon.
- Use Cooperative Learning Structures – 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 final strategy that teachers can use as a result of the Freddie Gray police indictments is to Promote Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships (Properateasclaships).
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
“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.
~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor
“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”
~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President