Skip to comments.Students' disrespect can pass as racism in classrooms (St Pete,FL)
Posted on 03/14/2009 7:54:27 PM PDT by devane617
Tracey Keim had been a bartender for years and thought she'd heard it all.
But even the crustiest of gutter-mouthed drunks would have been hard-pressed to match the verbal barrage unleashed by a 15-year-old in Keim's 10th-grade English class last fall.
It was the first day of school at St. Petersburg High, and the student, who was black, was trying to rattle Keim, 40, who is white.
"Listen," Keim said, "you can't yell like that. I work really hard not to interrupt you guys, and I "
"F--- YOOOUUUU!!!" the girl bellowed.
Some of the nouns and adjectives that followed were standard issue. A few referred to Keim's anatomy. Others, such as "white bitch," touched on the color of her skin.
Racist? Yes and no, Keim said.
"I think she was just saying 'white bitch' because that's what she could come up with. I think she was just being as outrageous as possible."
Keim shared her story in the aftermath of provocative statements made recently by Pinellas School Board member Mary Brown, who said during the board's annual retreat that the district needed to address "the elephant in the room" persistent complaints that black students in south Pinellas schools are intimidating white teachers.
In a series of interviews with south county teachers, the St. Petersburg Times found many agreed with Keim, saying kids tend to dish out whatever they think will rile teachers the most. Sometimes, the dish comes with a racist edge.
Barbara Thornton, associate superintendent for high school programs, thinks such over-the-top comments are rare. And while she says she doesn't doubt Brown's sincerity, racially motivated slurs are beyond the realm of her experience.
"I've never in my 36 years in this district felt intimidated by a black child," said the former Largo High principal, who is white.
Superintendent Julie Janssen, who also is white and was an assistant principal at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, said she never experienced racially motivated aggression either.
"I honestly never felt threatened, even when I stayed late (at school)," Janssen said. "I sometimes took kids home. For me, it's never been a problem."
In south Pinellas, it's a fact that a largely white, middle-class teaching corps is teaching a student body that is increasingly poor and black. Many of those teachers say they have been bombarded by rude behavior from black students.
But almost all of them said Brown's remarks didn't quite hit the mark.
It's not racism, the teachers say. It's rampant disrespect and dysfunction.
They say there are far too many wounded, out-of-control kids, both black and white. And with the return to neighborhood schools, fears are mounting that those students are being concentrated in a handful of schools and disrupting them to the point of paralysis.
In south Pinellas, those students happen to be black.
"You go to Gibbs (High), you go to John Hopkins (Middle) and you'll see it," said Sherry Howard, a media assistant at John Hopkins who is black, referring to the behavior of black students. "You shouldn't be coming to school wondering what's going to happen, what kind of fights, what kind of nonsense."
The teachers' concerns are rooted in the always shaky ground of race. There's reality, perceptions of reality, and perceptions that become reality.
Beyond that, questions and complications mount. How much of the problem behavior escalates because of poor classroom management? How much can be blamed on school administrators who don't mete out discipline consistently, or don't back up teachers?
How often do white teachers set off black students with unintentional sleights? How often do they do it intentionally? Could better training for teachers help?
Would it be effective to hire more black teachers?
"I don't know what the answer is," Howard said. "I just know if we keep going in this direction, we are never going to educate our kids to the level they deserve."
Earlier this year, Karen Kisten was in the classroom she shares with another Gibbs High teacher when her colleague asked a girl to sit down.
The girl, who was black, refused. She then pointed to Kisten and the other teacher, both of whom are white, and said, "You don't belong here. This is a black school."
Kisten, a 37-year veteran who began teaching before Pinellas schools integrated in 1971, was shocked and saddened. She knew the girl from a previous teaching stint at Riviera Middle School.
"I took her outside and said, 'What has happened to you?' " said Kisten, who told her story to Mary Brown.
The girl rolled her eyes.
Teachers like Kisten have been dealing with unruly kids forever. But some south county teachers worry that things may be reaching a tipping point.
After decades of court-ordered desegregation, when the Pinellas school district capped black student enrollment at 42 percent, the demographics in south Pinellas schools are shifting rapidly. Two years ago, no south county schools had a black majority.
Now, nine do. Five more will join them soon.
Brown, who opposed the return to neighborhood schools, said she raised the teacher-intimidation issue in part to prod the district to fulfill its promise to south Pinellas. To smooth the transition to neighborhood schools, the School Board had said it would send more resources to schools with fast-rising numbers of low-income kids.
"I will not let the board forget that," Brown said.
Some schools were on edge before the demographic shift.
Two years ago, teacher frustration boiled over at Gibbs in the wake of rampant vandalism and disturbing tales of student defiance. In an unsigned letter to then superintendent Clayton Wilcox, teachers said they were fearful. Among other complaints, they said some black students called white teachers racist when the teachers asked them to follow the rules.
Since then, the percentage of black students at Gibbs has risen from 43 to 51 percent. Frustration still simmers. Gibbs produced 42 teacher transfer requests last year, more than any other school in Pinellas.
A few miles away at Boca Ciega High, the percentage of black students has risen from 38 to 44 percent in four years.
Former Boca Ciega English teacher Y'Desha Alsup, who is black, said she could see the change.
In the past, kids with neighborhood feuds would go their separate ways when they got on different buses to go to different schools, she said. Not anymore.
"A lot of neighborhood stuff started coming in," said Alsup, who left the district in January to pursue a doctoral degree. "A lot of stuff that had nothing to do with school."
But she said the tension never spilled over into her classes.
"I believe it has a lot to do with my demeanor with my students," Alsup said. "I treated them with the utmost respect."
Other south Pinellas teachers, though, said that no matter how respectful teachers are toward students, some students aren't respectful in return.
"There are kids who do not learn to respect any authority whatsoever," said James Masson, a former Gibbs teacher who's now at Pinellas Park High. "Most of the kids (at Gibbs) were wonderful and nice. But there are kids, like at every school, who were defiant."
Like Keim, Masson said he was inclined to think that on those occasions when defiance sported a racial edge, the kids were motivated not by racism, but by a desire to push the envelope. In the context of a black student and a white teacher, a racist barb raises defiance to a higher level.
Harry Brown, the district's deputy superintendent in charge of curriculum, agreed kids will use whatever weapons are in their arsenal. At affluent, majority-white Palm Harbor University High, where Brown served as principal, students occasionally threatened teachers with lawsuits, he said.
Sometimes, what appears to be an impossible situation ends up a turning point.
The girl who cursed Tracey Keim, the St. Petersburg High teacher, was suspended for five days. When she returned to school, Keim took her aside and said, "Let's start over."
The girl is now one of the best writers in the class. She recently attended a writers workshop at the Poynter Institute and is headed to a leadership retreat for St. Petersburg High students later this month.
She has not raised her voice to Keim since.
If people don’t know the amount of unbridled, absolute hatred that inner city blacks have toward whites...they need a dose of reality.
Complete double standard. Al Sharpton? Jesse Jackson...where are you?
it’s Jesse, and AL that has helped create this problem.
Disrespect does not have to have a color attached to it. In this case, attaching color to unacceptable actions of a student just excuses it. When are adults going to wake up?
The girl is now one of the best writers in the class.
That's a scary thought. Maybe she'll be the next hate-whitey Nobel laureate.
I do family law with these folks and the families are really messed up, they hate each other, they beat each other, steal from each other you just can’t believe what goes on, so sick....
Thank you LBJ and the Great Society Dimmocrats.
“Barbara Thornton, associate superintendent for high school programs, thinks such over-the-top comments are rare.”
I love the dismissal here.
1 white kid in the county saying 1 thing “racist”, and there’d be a ready hanging of the kid - and whites generally - and ridiculous government shake-downs and “programs” started up (most especially, “sensitivity training” for the whites).
Let Are Kids Walk!
I believe that everything would run a lot smoother if predominantly black schools employed black teachers and predominantly white schools employed white teachers. Similarly, if black neighborhoods were patrolled by black cops and white neighborhoods by white cops, instances of “police brutality” and complaints against the police would decrease.
And Government schools. This won’t be tolerated in a private school.
Sounds like your typical Dumbo voters.
I particularly admire the part where they recommend better training for the teachers when the kids are being beligerent racist anal sphincters.
Raised in single parent homes....no Daddy or a host of them every other month...Moms that don’t give a youknowwhat because they’re to busy at the “club” and/or working to support they’re 5 kids and one on the way....
Looks like the "kid" gets it and they don't.
A militant com-symp from Kenya is POTUS now, whitey better be on their best behavior, and if whitey don't like it, violence is guaranteed.
A good use for “Porkulus” funding, would be video and audio cameras operating with recorder backup full-time in these classrooms.
Racist comments among students reinforce their inner-city attitudes, which precede outbreaks of actual violence. With video captures, not only can the perps be convicted with evidence, but the administrators won’t be able to hide behind the standard “violence is not really a problem here” PR line.
Yeah, it's the teachers' fault.
"Whuffo you bees hatin' on me?
from -- you guessed it -- black students.
Sounds to me that they have totally bought into the Rev-runnnn Jacksunnnn's preaching of the victim mentality...
Actually, I didn’t really mean it as a double standard. My grandfather still believes in the old ways so he does not take anything off of anyone.
Thats already being funded under DHS grants going back 5 or 6 years.
Not sure what you mean by smoother, but I've been in the worst schools on the South side of Chicago, and the staff is usually about 95% black. The kids still don't learn, they still don't bother to come to school and there are still crimes committed on school property.
Unfortunately, it does allow a lot of the black teachers to preach the same kind of hatred as Jeremiah Wright. Only in the classroom, rather than in a church.
Also, about the black cop in the black neighborhood thing; a while back, a cop was murdered on the South side and the black neighborhood cheered. It was pointed out to the residents that the cop was black and he had a wife and kids. The general response was that they were still glad he was dead, since he represented "The Man". They give black cops just as much of a hard time as they give white cops. Sometimes worse.
Easy solution —
Expel her and bar her from ever again attending any school anywhere.
Easy solution —
Expel her and bar her from ever again attending any school anywhere.
From the terminally naive attitudes of these guilt-ridden, apologist, wimpish white teachers, I can tell that the Ayers-esque faculties at the Teacher’s colleges are doing splendid work in completing their missions of dumbing down this nation and emboldening the black street thugs whom will populate Obama’s private army.
"They is" the product of "people" like Obama's mentor and life long friend, Mr.Wright, and others like him.
Not necessarily. Minority cops sometimes put up with less BS than the white guys. And the "police brutality" complaints around here seem to keep coming no matter what the race/ethnicity of the cop.
Until and unless the school administrators go back to a uniform policy of expecting and enforcing respect from every student it will just continue to go down hill.
I feel sorry for the teachers who try and enforce disciplined behavior in their classrooms but are NOT backed up by the spineless administrators and the school boards. I do not sympathise with the liberal progressive teachers who are willing to make excuses for such unacceptable behavior. They reap what they sow.
It would probably be better just to take all cops out of the area, seal it off and let them all have at it till all you hear is silence.
We need to get rid of them. Is Liberia still accepting people?
Well the cops seem to have a hopeless/thankless task in some places...a waste of tax dollars on those who won’t cooperate and don’t appreciate it.
Sort of like schools in those places. One of my neighbors used to teach in a rough neighborhood. He tried to use examples of how paying attention in school and getting a good job would help his (5th grade) students get nice things & live in a nice neighborhood. Most just said “Well I’ll just steal it from you.” He said he thought he got through to maybe one a year.
I find it hard to believe that a whitey crime victim in an inner city school would get any justice from a jury pool from that neighborhood. Sadly, the lessons of "Jim Crow" "justice" haven't been learned by everyone.
>Actually, I didnt really mean it as a double standard. My grandfather still believes in the old ways so he does not take anything off of anyone.
Maybe I should research the Cherokee a bit... (my grandpa has some Cherokee in him.)
This needed to be repeated - And it doesn't only apply to Inner City Blacks.
It seems in the upside down World we are being ushered into the only groups that are without rights are Whites, Christians and Heterosexuals. Combinations of the aforementioned are given a little slack but God help you if you are all three.
It seems to me that sometimes being male is also something of a disadvantage in certain circles.
Are the intimidated teachers in a Union? If so they should file a grievance.
>And the “police brutality” complaints around here seem to keep coming no matter what the race/ethnicity of the cop.
A friend and I had an idea the other day: “Subcontracting out police-brutality”... Imagine, it provides citizens with work, AND they get to release their anger and frustration on the “alleged perpetrator” instead of the police. (Thus ensuring a good beating and keeping the police officer from those silly “police brutality” charges.)
...yes. I do have a warped mind; why do you ask? ;)
>It seems to me that sometimes being male is also something of a disadvantage in certain circles.
Testicular Cancer and Prostate Cancer support groups?
Take away the enablers and the welfare system will starve.
Although you are correct that the fundamental problem is a school run like a zoo instead of a place that demands discipline, you are wrong about it not being racist. These black students consciously choose to charge their disrespect with racist remarks. Would it be better if they were screaming "I hate school" or calmly saying "I hate white crackers like you." ? Personally, I find the latter to be the more disrespectful and so do the students, although they appear to like combining both.
I see more and more black racism as time passes.
In a couple you would have thought all men were violent, sexual deviants and all women were their innocent ‘Victims’. Definitely an opportunity on the part of some for serious anti-male hysteria and bashing.
Mom mom teaches in a class of nearly 75% blacks in the rural south. Nearly 3-4 girls per class are pregnant by second semester.
She deals with disruptive, disrespectful idiotic teens who know that an apartment, food and cash are only a sexual tryst away, so they all get knocked up to better themselves.
She is strict, and receives threats from students and administrators that they weren’t passed without earning it.
Billions of dollars can be spent on Liberal programs, but IQ and culture are not able to be bought.
Inner cities’ out-of-wedlock births (heard this from a black preacher on the radio a few weeks back) is approaching 85-90% (70% across the US).
Obama is readying his retard army, be prepared.