• Michael Mathews

    That young man is lucky he had an advocate. I hope he got some help and will be okay. He’s certainly not the first teen to go through a rough patch.

    It’s very sad to read about the sharp differences in the way the two were treated, but the thing about privilege is that some people get more second chances than others do. It’s really unfair, but in so many cases the ones with privilege (whether they realize they have it or not) are also the ones making and enforcing the policy.

  • http://www.mamabirdphotography.com/ Jen Moore

    yes, yes, yes a thousand times yes. these stories matter. i’ll be sharing this in my sociology class this week

  • Carol

    This was hugely sad. One thing – am I ignorant but why is Black spelt with a capital letter? Teach me.

  • chloepear

    Thank you for telling this story, and thank you, Heather, for introducing us to Kelly.

  • Karen Bernstein

    I am so glad that Kelly had Lashawn’s trust and could get him to open up about his need for support. I’m so curious though as to why Kelly didn’t push Scott’s mother more to get him the glasses he needed so that he could get the testing he needed. Clearly Scott needs her help. He’s headed straight for prison like his brother otherwise.

    What I saw in her story was that she related very well to Lashawn and his parents, and they all benefited from that relationship. She did a great job advocating for Lashawn.

    Does Kelly not relate as well to the challenges Scott is facing? While the school made a choice for Lashawn that Kelly saw was wrong, the school and Kelly might have made some decisions for Scott that are wrong. The police SHOULD have been called when the school found Scott’s marijuana. Were they not called because he’s white? Kelly wrote about the decisions around Scott’s situation using “we,” while she wrote about her direct involvement in Leshawn’s issues. Has Kelly written Scott off because she thinks his mother doesn’t want anything to change? Has Kelly spoken to Scott’s mother?

    What Kelly tells us is that the school automatically escalated Leshawn’s truancy while they treated Scott’s dealing with kid gloves because the school is racist. She also tells us that the school followed policy for Scott but not for Leshawn. What I see is a school run by flawed individual people who made decisions about specific individual students based on their own skewed outlooks. The administrators (whose racial makeup we don’t know) might have made the decision to involve the police for Leshawn because they’re racially biased, but perhaps Kelly also made some decisions about Scott because of her racial bias.

    I didn’t see anything in this story about institutional racism, sorry. There were no policies about how to treat truant black students vs. drug dealing white kids. Now, if the story had been about Leshawn bringing marijuana to school and then getting sent to juvenile detention while Scott hangs out in the special ed classroom, that would have been quite damning.

    “Institutional racism” is quite hard to prove in my opinion. You know how the Federal Government refused to underwrite loans for black home buyers in the 60s? That’s institutional racism.

  • BaloneyIsMyFirstName

    And that is why you are part of the problem. This woman is sharing her experience and your response is to pick it apart and dismiss it. This is why it is difficult to have cross-racial conversations about this topic. I hope the view looks good from your high horse.

  • Gidget Hrobowski

    Thanks so much for this story, you get black lives matter. Again, thank you. GiGi

  • http://www.moosenotes.com MooseNotes.com

    If you set aside the white student and just consider Lashawn, the opportunity to speak with a young black police officer could have proven insightful and inspiring. It’s called role modeling, and for a student who otherwise was doing well and seemed to have taken a sudden down turn, this could have been an invaluable opportunity for him.

    This notion of equal treatment in schools has a deeper backstory. It’s symptomatic of a systemic problem that has a very deep historical reach. And that’s hard to correct for.

    Regarding the white student, the police should have been involved — not to equalize treatment between students of different color but because HELLO, drugs.

    As for special education, there’s a disproportionate number of non-white students with IEPs. Race and poverty aren’t qualifiers for special education, and yet something is happening to black and other non-white students that affects their school performance, to the point that they exhibit symptoms of a qualifying disability.

  • Gidget Hrobowski

    Jen, thank you for understanding what it means to say black lives matter, too. It astonishes me when people don’t understand why the movement & the slogan originated. To tell you the truth when people claim not to understand, then hollar and chant all lives matter I really think they are lying, pretending racism doesn’t exist

  • http://www.moosenotes.com MooseNotes.com

    I’m calling baloney on you, Baloney.

    Karen’s response is perfectly valid. You don’t limit people when you’re attempting to have a round table discussion on a tough issue.

    And I agree: Institutional racism is indeed hard to prove, but it’s easy to discuss — and that’s exactly what needs to happen and why I love Heather’s blog posts.

  • Gidget Hrobowski

    Lady you missed the whole essence of the story. The institutionalized racism went beyond the school’s educational policies, the school subjected LaShawn to their own racial prejudices when they went outside of policy, treating the white and black totally differently, calling the police on one and not the other. On one hand calling the police relating to the black kid could have had a negatively detrimentally effect on him, mentally, emotionally, and physically, and not calling them on the white kid selling drugs, opposing and overruling any advice from Kelly regarding the issue. When the mind-set of the officials are of this racist nature, that is institutionalized racism.

    Perhaps, since the white mother was not cooperating that had a lot to do with her input with the white child. However, institutionalized racism is not deflected simply because a white childs problem was not adequately handled or solved, the white kid still was not subjected to the police being called.

  • Gidget Hrobowski

    Excuse me, but what does the spelling of the word black with a capital letter have to do with anything?

  • http://www.mamabirdphotography.com/ Jen Moore

    you are some welcome…black lives matter has been a great point of discussion for white people to understand that it doesn’t mean all lives don’t matter but pointing out the large and racist distinction that brown and black bodies aren’t as valued as white bodies. I’m so grateful that we are at what I think is another turning point in our history–this injustice must end. But before it does, it’s going to continue to be messy as we sort through privilege, white fragility and gun violence. Don’t get me started on sexism

  • Michael Mathews

    I appreciate your perspective. I can easily get down because in my head I know the problem will take time to fix, but my heart wants it to change now. People writing and sharing their experiences and understanding are really helpful.

  • http://www.mamabirdphotography.com/ Jen Moore

    yes white people can’t be quiet or bystanders…we must stand up and make change…the best thing we can do as white people (if you are white, i can’t tell) is to educate and call out other white people AND join people of colors movements and support them in their vision

  • Gidget Hrobowski

    Michael, thank you so much for your warm, and encouraging heart.
    God bless you.

  • Gidget Hrobowski

    Great comment, thank you.

  • Amanda Brendtro

    Somewhere along the way schools were allowed to become corporate and cold. I can only assume to save money. It’s time to bring community back, where we support our community, our kids as they grow up. How many relationships are built when there are 2,000+ kids in a building? The police force in Florida were invited to learn about autism, they declined to learn from their stakeholders and build relationships and a therapist was shot due to willful ignorance. It’s time to build relationships and end willful ignorance.

  • Michael Mathews

    I am white. I’m trying to root out my own assumptions and biases, too.

  • http://www.mamabirdphotography.com/ Jen Moore

    Good for you. Me too! Always. If you haven’t read it, I suggest Peggy McIntosh’s work on white privilege and Cornell West’s Race Matters. My friend Patty Digh does a white privilege/racism course online starting this fall. (its super cheap!) I did it last summer and it was life changing. You can find her online at her website or on FB.

  • Oscar The Wilde

    This doesn’t need to be a story about Scott, the white kid. And this isn’t a story about Kelly, the author. This is a story about Lashawn, the black kid. And the fact that you want to make it a story about the white kid or the author, that you feel the need to come back to the white kid, explore that story and dismiss everything said about and learned by making this Lashawn’s story *proves* the engrained need to dismiss race, *shows* the white habit of ‘reversing’ everything ever said about racism, and is yet again an actual example of white privilege and centering white experience.

    Let this anecdotal story teach you the thing it is trying to show you. Believe the writer, follow their focus. Stories are told for reasons and this reason is so fucking important. Please I beg of you, from one white person to another (yep, I’m pretty damned sure you’re white even without meeting you…so sue me) I am pleading for you to acknowledge the different experiences of these boys as one constructed by race.

  • ms4130

    then they overcompensated in the early mid two thousands and then we had housing crisis.

  • ms4130

    Hey you treated two people differently RACIST!!!! Nice way to talk to your bosses. I’m not buying this story. Seems incomplete. Also if LeShawn was so upstanding, why the concern about brining in a young police officer you even said was for the purpose of role modeling?

    oh here’s a hint, when you see a statistic such as more black students are getting in trouble than whites, instead of assuming racism, why not actually investigate the cases, because you’re gonna find HUGE behavioral problems in a big slice of population where 58% live in homes with absentee fathers.

  • http://idwellindreams.wordpress.com/ OneLove

    Thank you this powerful post. I really needed to see this today.

  • http://www.psycholobitch.com Psycholobitch Healing

    I am so impressed by how you handled the situation. That was the right thing to do and I wish everyone had the insight that you do. It takes all of us, one at a time, to effect social change.

  • Michael Mathews

    It is striking that the first time this young man has trouble, they bring in the police. You would think a kid who had generally done well to that point would get some benefit of the doubt. Encounters with police are often quite stressful.

  • Carol

    I simply asked why ‘white’ was spelled ‘white’ and ‘black’ “Black” throughout. Try not to read anything else into my question — there may be a valid reason for that, ok?

  • Gidget Hrobowski

    I was just as curious as you. I don’t necessary think I was reading anything into the comment, but wondering what with the importance of this topic, why would anyone concentrate on something as insignificant as the capitalization of a word? I mean am not trying to down you, but as a Black Jewish female, am terrified by all the violence and racism directed against my people as well as all races, this article allowed me some peace that some people really get the black plight, that’s all I could think of. But, please don’t mind me!!! God bless!

  • Gidget Hrobowski

    Dude, could you be more bias and ignorant. She did investigate LeShawn’s case, and very effectively I might add. She found he was having some emotional issues. She also thought calling the police, which by the way went beyond policy, was a bad decision, especially since black people have issues with police, and don’t exactly trust them. She states she thought it better to sit down and have a conversion with the kid, and it worked. Now, in the case of the white kid selling dope, and the fact his mom was very aware of it, policy demands the police should have been called because he was participating in a criminal act. But her boss demonstrated preferential bias when she called the police on the black kid which was totally unnecessarily, and not on the white kid which would have been very appropriate.

    Each case is individual, you cannot lump your racist thoughts together and say black kids are this and white kids are that, you’re very ignorant. The black kid had a mother and father, and so do a lot of other black kids.

    I don’t understand people like you, why do you assume or want people to believe all black kids are the bad guys. I guess the black kid beats the hell out of your mean spirited stereotypes, and he wasn’t the one selling drugs, but the white kid was. That’s what’s really bothering you, but you’re blind with such vile hatred and you don’t even know these people, how freaking idiotic can you be?

  • Gidget Hrobowski

    Thank you.

  • Morgan

    The two situations are not the same. One kid had been struggling academically for years and had a Mom who wasn’t even engaged enough in her sons life to ensure standard care let alone encourage success. The other was an athlete who never missed a day and suddenly went missing and whose Mom came to the school looking or help. The SRO was involved initially it seems to aid in locating a missing child. I just see so many problems with the writers point of view based on what was shared here. I don’t even know where to begin. Everyone sees the world through a lens that is influenced by things such as personal belief, the people around them and personal experience. That lens can focus ones perception of any given situation in a very particular way. Lawshawn’s behavior was a drastic departure from his norm. I see the reactions of the school as commensurate to the situation. Some might even suggest that he was given preferential treatment as there seemed to be a great deal of concern for his future as opposed to Scott. For example, why did no one try to find a mentor for Scott when he “took up the family business”? Just say’n.

  • Carol

    I thought maybe it WAS significant. She writes so brilliantly, I reckoned she was doing it on purpose to make a point or something. End of subject.

  • Karen Bernstein

    not really. The housing crisis – I think you mean the fact that investment bankers went totally rogue and sold bundled mortgage securities based on fraudulent valuations – really has nothing to do with the racial discrimination in mortgage lending in the 20th century. There were absolutely predatory lenders in the 2005-8 housing bubble that focused on giving loans to minority customers at outrageous interest rates for which those customers were not qualified and that is terrible. But not connected as far as I can see.

  • Karen Bernstein

    Maybe. But how can I not see the story as presented by Kelly as one that includes Kelly? She is part of the story, a big part. Her approach to Lashawn was magnificent. Lashawn and his mom should remember this experience and hope that they will have such effective advocates through the rest of Lashawn’s school experience.

    I just didn’t see this particular story as one of “institutional racism.” Perhaps I’m being too strict in my definition of that term. I really saw Kelly’s essay as an example of how fallible people make mistakes. Perhaps the principal in her school is a racist. I don’t really know. But even if s/he is a racist that to me does not rise to the level of “institutional racism: Institutional racism or systemic racism describes forms of racism which are structured into political and social institutions. It occurs when organisations, institutions or governments discriminate, either deliberately or indirectly, against certain groups of people to limit their rights.” Well, maybe I am being too strict – in my mind “institutional racism” has meant codified discrimination, but in this definition pulled from the interwebs it seems to include “indirect” discrimination, whatever that means.

    In Kelly’s story about Scott and Leshawn, the school responded to each situation outside of their published policies, I am certain. Policies exist to prevent individuals from inserting their bias into the institution. Principals probably go outside published policy more than they operate within it. I imagine they do this in order to deal with unique situations most effectively. In this story, Kelly’s actions saved the day for Lashawn. I would like to hear more from her about what the actual policies would have dictated for each student.

    And yes, I can see how these boys’ different experiences are probably constructed by race. They absolutely will have multiple exposures along their lives that continue to be about race. Human beings are biased, including me, always. If you say you are not you are simply telling me that your self awareness is lacking. Kelly brings her unique viewpoint to this story and she herself might have some racial biases. Is that not possible? Did she not advocate for Scott because of race? Or because his circumstances made that really difficult? She doesn’t tell us. I was just trying to ask the question.

  • Jesselyn

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Jacqueline Stallworth

    Love this…. It’s the decisions that school are making everyday that are perpetuating racism.

  • http://www.socamom.com/ Eva

    This was very necessary. Thanks for sharing. I hear it all the time, but I am still shocked each and every time. I homeschool for many reasons, but lately I have been thinking that THIS is something we shouldn’t have to deal with… that I’m not willing to deal with. I’ve added this to my list of reasons. I appreciate your sharing this with your audience. Thank you.

  • Karen Bernstein

    I have read that Black is considered an appropriate word to discuss the race of people in the African diaspora, whereas “black” is simply the name of a color.

  • LookAroundMore

    Absentee fathers who have been probably unfairly arrested, prosecuted in a racist system! Absentee fathers who have been denied employment on the basis of their skin color and therefore turn to illegal activities to feed their families! Absentee fathers who were stuck in low performing schools! You might call these excuses because you cannot relate. Black children are discriminated against starting in Elementary School. Teachers spend less time tending to their needs, are less tolerant with them, and tend to label them. Black children who start Kg on the same level as their white peers, do not progress as well by the third grade. Some of these schools are pipelines to prisons! Unless we address the real issues things will remain the same. Do not forget that discrimination affects everyone directly or indirectly.

    I know why the freed bird Sings and Soars!

  • fearcutsdeeper

    Except there is no guarantee that the police officers woukd be supportive mentors. Or that Lashawn woukd respond to having police officers as mentors. He might have been to scared of them and shut down when he interacted with them. There’s no guarantee that this mentorship might turn into some kind of one kid Scared Straight program.

    Anyway to answer your other point no poverty doesn’t qualify a person for an IEP. But I think it correlates strongly with trauma and that can create learning challenges

  • fearcutsdeeper

    You don’t see institutional racism? Ughhh.

    When institutions make collective decisions that punished black children far more harshly than white children that is by definition institutional racism