Behavior/Discipline

White privilege is real. So is generational, institutionalized racism. Nowhere is it more prevalent than in our public school system. But often, those who make the rules have a hard time seeing how those rules can limit access to opportunity for others. While these issues are nothing to make light of, sometimes you need a hands-on approach to help white students or family members understand their privilege. We hope this example is of benefit to those who wish to approach these sensitive, yet undeniable, issues with an open heart and open mind. (Download a PDF of the flyer here.)

RULES:

Set up your GAME BOARD. Give yourself cash, properties and hotels and houses, totaling $18,000. Your opponent gets the traditional $1,500 to start. This 12:1 disparity represents the median amount of wealth transferred from whites to their heirs, compared with African Americans.

There are two sets of CARDS. Educational injustices experienced by students of color go in the FAT CHANCE pile (click here to print your own cards). Tax breaks, stock market gains, work bonuses, opportunities due to “who you know,” etc. go in the PRIVILEGED COMMUNITY CHEST.

They choose their TOKEN (the IRON, because it’s the only one that’s left), and the game commences.

When they notice that the board is not set up equitably, they complain. You respond with, “That’s in the past. We’re all equal now. Let’s play!“ You roll and proceed to move forward the correct number of spaces.

When a player lands on a “DRAW A CARD” SQUARE, you draw from PRIVILEGED COMMUNITY CHEST. Your opponent draws from the FAT CHANCE pile. These distinctly different stacks of cards represent the systemic disparities still in place from generations of targeting, profiling and redlining of the black community reflected in policies and norms throughout society today.

When your opponent lands on YOUR PROPERTIES, they pay you RENT. If you own all properties in a COLOR GROUP, their rent is DOUBLED.

When you land on THEIR PROPERTIES, same thing. Except, they probably don’t own any properties, you bought most of them (or inherited them) before they got there.

Eventually, they will inevitably land on one of your HOUSES or HOTELS and they won’t have enough cash to continue. If they happen to have purchased a property, they have the option to MORTGAGE their property to the bank in order to stay in the game. However, they only get half the LOAN AMOUNT on the back of the card.

When your opponent runs out of cash, they have to GO TO JAIL, while you continue to roll the dice until all assets have been acquired. If they complain about any of the rules, you say, “That was one of the rules that was decided on before you got here. Don’t like it? Get here earlier next time.”

OBJECT OF THE GAME:

To inspire whites to understand their privilege enough to research it and develop talking points so they can respond to others who try to marginalize it by saying racism or privilege don’t exist, and to commit to fight to create equitable learning opportunities for our children of color.

Credits: Created by Gay Adelmann. Inspired by Shelton McElroy and Jane Elliott.

Disclaimer: We realize this post will probably upset some of our white followers. However, in this current climate, and the increasing suffering of our students of color, we believe it’s a chance we must take. If you disagree with the examples presented in this post, it’s possible that you are not one of the ones impacted by them. The FAT CHANCE CARDS were created based on actual examples experienced by students of color in our district. These hurdles continue to happen every day in our schools. And we cannot end them until we acknowledge they exist.

Dear JCPS,

I briefly reviewed the results of the recent audit. It seems that the documents I read about the audit, and nearly every other document about or by JCPS, rarely address real-life problems faced by students and teachers…issues that the general public are rarely aware of. Here are a few:

  • Students who are supposed to be receiving counseling and mental health services are not getting their needs met. There are too many students needing too many services and the 1 mental health counselor in the school can’t possibly meet the demand. Kids are falling through the cracks.
  • Teachers can’t teach. Kids can’t learn. The district has created an atmosphere that inundates teachers and other school staff with an unimaginable amount of paperwork, meetings, number crunching and data, data, data. In moderation, these are all great and necessary. But it’s primarily bullshit. These mandates keep teachers so stressed out with deadline after deadline. Paperwork has truly become a part-time job.
  • West End schools are failing. JCPS IS a disaster. Kids need more help. Teachers need more help. Students in these schools experience trauma on a daily basis, yet programs, policies and promises never live up to the hype – they never produce results because the people making the decisions are those who have worked hard to climb the ladder and ‘get out of the classroom’. Teachers are under such scrutiny. More and more demands are placed on teachers’ very limited time. We are expected to teach cookie-cutter, scripted lessons to students who act out, due to trauma, in the way of fighting, throwing objects, kicking chairs, destroying property – crying out for help. Clearly, they need MORE help. Clearly, they are living a trauma-based life. THEY NEED MORE. COOKIE-CUTTER, DISTRICT approaches DON’T WORK. We know what’s waiting for our students of poverty. Why not offer real interventions that could change the trajectory of their lives? Why not ask teachers what help THEY need to better serve their students? Does the district even care?
  • Many principals push all the district mandates without thinking about the specific population of students they are serving; without thinking about all the demands that are placed on teachers and how hard they work day in and day out. Everyone in education it seems touts “students come first.” This is such crap. Nothing is further from the truth in my opinion. It should be, “covering our butts” comes first. The people who know their students best, are rarely asked what they need to help their kids. And even if you were asked, you couldn’t tell the truth for fear of retribution. It’s one way – the district’s – or the highway.
  • Here at JCPS, there’s one way to teach. If kids can’t recite the standard they are learning, then you’re an ineffective teacher. If the wording of the learning objective is misstated, uh-oh. If you’re not using the script of the “research-based” brand-new program we’re shoving down your throat, whoops. I’m not a teacher. I’m a robot. My poor kids.
  • PLC’s are exhausting. Nobody likes them. Just another avenue for administration to regurgitate what the district erroneously considers “best practices.” PLCs are the epitome of number-crunching, uber-focus on data, more tracking, more paperwork, more of “you’re shit teachers and you’re not doing it the way we believe it’s right.”
  • BULLYING IS AN ISSUE! Some administrators either don’t know how to handle it, don’t believe they can change it, or they completely disregard it on a systemic level. If only parents knew! It’s ridiculous.
  • PGES is another way JCPS covers their butt. It’s more paperwork. It’s more deadlines. It’s a joke.
  • Teachers work hard and put in very long hours, often to the detriment of their family-life, health, etc. They love their students. They truly don’t stop when the bell rings. I would ask that the district and admin cut us some slack, for crying out loud. Give us a voice. Let us teach!

How in the world did we get to where we are in education today? Prior to the last 4 or 5 years, I felt I was truly able to teach and meet the needs of my kids. Not sure if it was the initiation of Common Core or the beginning of Hargens rule. Regardless, I am so frustrated and I feel helpless and hopeless. It’s time to REALLY start putting our kids AND teachers first.

Signed,
A JCPS Teacher

This letter was submitted via our Open Letter Form. Please join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

Dear JCPS,

Why is it that the females in our schools are punished more severely than the boys? I have been in the JCPS system for years, and every year when girls act up, their punishments are almost 3 times as harsh as when boys do the same “crime.” I used to coach for a boys athletic team here, and even though I finished the season with them, they were horrible. Lack of discipline and respect for the teachers Continue Reading

This letter was submitted via our Open Letter Form. Please join in the conversation on our Facebook page.

Dear JCPS,

I work in one of the elementary schools in the Southwest part of the city. Our school is one of the Compassionate Schools. Three times each week, our students learn how to calm themselves down, and to use words instead of fists. Despite this training, there are students who get caught up in bickering and fights on a daily basis. When asked to use other strategies, we are told by the kids that their parents told them to fight back. Here is a letter I received from a student who engaged in fighting even though I strongly discouraged her from doing so. Continue Reading

This is an email that was sent by an Academy @ Shawnee Sophomore to Dr. Hargens on Sunday, Nov. 27. She asked that Dear JCPS publish it our our open letter forum.

Dear Dr. Hargens,jessica

I wanted to follow up with you in regards to my speech that I gave at the JCPS Board meeting on November, 15th. On your way out the door when my mother mentioned a possible follow up email being sent about #BringBacktheColonel your response was “think about the programs as a whole, not just one person.” So, I went home and read again the letter that was sent home by Ms. Benboe on November 9th, explaining the personnel changes that happened at my school, the Academy@Shawnee, over a 4 day break for the students. What I noticed was the statement about the magnet programs. The following was taken directly from the letter:

FINALLY, OUR MAGNET PROGRAMS HAVE NOT CHANGED; STUDENTS WILL CONTINUE TO RECEIVE SUPPORT AND RESOURCES FOR ALL OF OUR CURRENT MAGNET PROGRAMS.

When Ms. Benboe and the District transfers the magnet coordinator, Col. William Vander Meer with no plans to replace him, then to say that the magnet programs will not change is a contradiction. The programs changed at 2:30 in the afternoon on Nov. 4 when the Colonel was told that he was being transferred to Central High School, effective immediately. We, the students, will not continue to receive ALL the support and resources that were available to us with the Colonel gone. I’ll share with you an example about the aviation program. On November 5th, the day after his transfer, there were about 15 Shawnee Middle and High school students that were to meet him at Hanger 7 at Bowman Field, to take plane rides. Only because he holds a seat on the Board of Directors for Hanger 7, were those students, myself included, still able to go on the plane rides. I actually got to fly a plane and logged air time for the first time that morning. Those types of outings and programs were the direct result from the Colonels passion for the kids, for learning and for the excitement of aviation.

Another example that maybe you are not aware of, is a new program with UPS, which the Colonel was able to arrange for our school. The freshman this year will be paired up with UPS pilots. The pilots will follow and mentor, one on one, the students for their entire 4 years in high school. What an opportunity. Once again it was because of the Colonel’s connections with the community and his drive for the success of the Academy@Shawnee.

I could you give example after example, if you care to listen, of how the Colonel’s 19 years of experience and his community connections promotes all of the students attending the Academy@Shawnee’s Middle and High Schools. He was one of a few administration personal that was bridging the Middle school to the High school.

However, I would like to share with you how I felt when I was attending the Board meeting that night. During the first part of the meeting when schools were getting recognized, I was sitting in the audience getting frustrated, hurt and then angry. All of these schools were talking about teacher relationships with their students and how awesome of an experience that is. Our school has teachers leaving to go to different school to teach every single day. So, to have the few remaining in our building meant the world to me and to the other 150 children that signed our petition. The swift and quiet transfer of the Colonel just feels like a punishment. A punishment in which our school does not deserve. I have already had the experience earlier this year of a teacher being fired by the District and then just 6 days later she was reinstated by the District to her teaching position. So, that is why I am asking you again: Dr. Hargens, will you please transfer Col. William VanderMeer back to the Academy@Shawnee?

Regards,
Jessica Bennett

Good evening. My name is Stephen Cain.steve

I had been the Chief Flight Instructor at The Academy @ Shawnee for the past 10 years. I come before you tonight to ask why you Board members indirectly, and Dr. Hargens directly, have done anything/everything in your power to destroy success at The Academy @ Shawnee.

I left Shawnee this past summer because, after 10 years there, I saw negative trends, or at least, no positive changes in the future and I felt powerless fighting for advances. I had a very difficult time deciding what to do because I loved, and still love, my students.

I’ve held my tongue the entire time because of possible/ probable retribution from administrators and a past principal, but now I can’t any longer.

All of the hard work and effort to build a nationally respected aviation program, an outstanding NJROTC program and robotics program, by people like Keith Look, Col Will Vandermeer, Mr. Tito, Tyler Shearon, Crystal Darensbourg, Master Chief Vermillion, Mr. Armendariz, Mr. Mike, Mr. Suggs, Mr. Rose, many additional staff members, and so many dedicated parents are being killed by the top administrators and board members at JCPS.

Several years ago, when Dr. Look left, Dr. Hargens did not seek advice from the school community for a new principal and she gave us a disastrous replacement after about six months. That person almost singlehandedly ruined the school. Once he disappeared in Spring 2015, we went without a replacement until 36 hours prior to the new school year and once again without listening to the input from the school, parents and students.

The school population wanted someone with knowledge of Shawnee students and their unique challenges as their new leader. Faculty, staff, parents, and most importantly students want consistency in leadership because they were going through another leadership change in less than 2 years. Yet once again Dr. Hargens found someone else. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Mrs. Benboe is a good person and has worked hard to improve the situation at Shawnee, however she came from outside our Shawnee community and had no idea of the overwhelming challenges Shawnee students face. This put her and the students at a disadvantage.

We have all recently seen the magnitude of issues boiling over at the school and yet, once again, Dr. Hargens has directly interfered in the school and dismissed three of the most respected staff members. WHY? When teacher turnover is already an issue at the school, why create more? How is that in the best interest of the students at Shawnee?

So, as I asked at the beginning of my statement: why have you Board members indirectly, and Dr. Hargens, directly done anything/everything in your power to destroy success at The Academy @ Shawnee? If you want to close The Academy @ Shawnee, be straight forward and say so. Don’t kill it by 1000 cuts.

These students deserve better from their leaders.

Editor’s note: The Academy @ Shawnee lost their SBDM powers 5 years ago when the school went into Priority Status. The school community has had very little influence over the decisions that have been made at the school level, and the continued abuse and neglect of that school, as well as their inability to exit priority status, lies fully at the feet of district leadership.

Watch the entire video here (there is a brief video outage at the beginning), including an interruption from Vice Chair Porter when she was concerned Mr. Cain might say something negative about district leadership’s “chosen” principal.

Dear JCPS,

My name is M, and I am a junior at the Academy @ Shawnee. You might recognize me from this time last year when I stood before you and spoke about how I never had a math teacher at all last year and didn’t receive what I deserve as a student because of it.m

Well, I stand before you at this moment because once again my fellow classmates and I or not getting what we need and deserve. Recently, a lot of changes have been made to my school and the most problematic or infelicitous change has been the change in staff. If you aren’t familiar with the background of most students at my school, most of (them/us) come from a lamentable background and don’t have a perfect support system. The people who were taken away from our school were some of the most understanding, caring and solicitous staff at my school. My school is not just a regular school. We need more than your average school and we definitely need and deserve more than what is being given to us.

Before I close, I would just like to ask that the next time you make a decision about what is being done to a school whose background and culture you aren’t familiar with, I would like to ask that you think about who it really affects, and that is the students.will

Thank you.

Student’s name has been replaced with first initial.

The Academy @ Shawnee has been in the news a lot recently, but the truth is not what the district leaders would have you believe. We’ve been begging for their support for years, and instead of flotation devices, they throw us bricks. Students need supports and interventions, they respond with retribution.

A timeline of events going back 10 years is currently being developed to help shed some light on these systemic and repeated injustices that have led to a population finally saying, “Enough is enough!”

In the meantime, the comments from community reveal that there is more to the story. It reeks of adult-driven agendas and retribution, not what’s in the best interest of the students. Here are some of the posts and comments from Facebook.

anonymous1

 

 

Dear JCPS,

When my son was in the eighth grade he and I made a point to attend the Showcase of Schools. At the time, his goal was to find out how to apply and audition for the orchestra as a cellist at YPAS. It was a Friday night and there was a nice turnout for the showcase, busy but manageable, until we reached the booth for Manuel/YPAS. The crowd at their booth was overwhelming to say the least. After standing in line, for what seemed like an eternity after a long day, my son asked if I would continue to wait in line while he checked out the rest of the booths – I readily agreed.

Little did I know, that the little boy who used to dream of flying or becoming an astronaut would be reawakened that night. You see,besides music,my son always loved airplanes and rockets and flying. As he grew, his love of flying machines took a back seat to music as his talent blossomed and his time was spent learning to play the piano, cello, guitar and bass. As I waited in that line, my son found out about a school where he could learn to fly and another dream could become a reality.

We never did make it to the front of the line at the Manual/YPAS booth but we did spend the rest of the evening talking with Dr. Look and Mr. Cain about the opportunities at the Academy@Shawnee. My son was hooked! Needless to say I was surprised to find out about the aviation magnet, I had no idea it even existed. Then I also had to wrap my mind around the fact that we just went from the possibility of him attending the “best” school in the district to perhaps one of “worst” (and in a rough part of town). Continue Reading

Dear JCPS,

I have a senior at the Academy@Shawnee in the Aviation magnet program. My husband and I stepped out on faith when we agreed to allow our son to attend school at Shawnee to pursue his interest in aviation and aeronautics. We did not make this decision lightly and visited the school on a number of occasions to get a handle on the climate and safety of the school. Never once, over the past couple of years, did we feel unsafe at the school or did I fear for my child’s safety.

Unfortunately, this year has already been very trying and I do fear for my son’s safety. I am constantly hearing of fights and extreme misbehavior, sometimes it seems like it is daily. Monday’s incident found my son going to his math class, in the hallway where this fight was happening, and he was locked out of his classroom! I understand an additional officer hired for security also quit the same day – it was her first day.

My son’s safety, as well as his classmates, is not my only concern. How many teachers and staff members are at risk and how much teaching/learning time is wasted dealing with theses continual disruptions? Turnover at Shawnee is worst than ever. Communication from the school to parents is poor at best. I learned of Monday’s incident and arrests on the news when I arrived home from work. Dr. Hargens, I would like to know what are you doing to correct the situation? I want to know what is happening tomorrow and the next day to keep our kids safe?

Respectfully,
Parent Name Retracted