Schools Say ‘OK’ to Racism under DeVos/Trump

African-American students in Bryan, Texas, are four times more likely to be suspended than white students.  Even black preschool students are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended from school. Why?  Well, the Department of Education was investigating to try to find the answer to that question.  Was.  And then along came Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Betsy DeVosWith more than 1,500 complaints of racial discrimination in schools across the nation between 2011-2017, the Department of Education under President Obama launched investigations nationwide, from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Oakland, California.  And yes, even Bryan, Texas.  It is nothing short of systemic racism.  DeVos, however, ordered at least 65 such investigations halted, and ordered investigators to limit proactive civil rights probes rather than expanding them.

Bryan, Texas, has a history of discrimination.  When the Supreme Court ordered school de-segregation in 1954 as a result of Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, the town of Bryan thought the law excluded them, and refused to comply.  Only when one parent filed and won a federal lawsuit in 1963, nearly a decade after the Brown decision, did the courts order Bryan to de-segregate … one grade per year.  Progress comes slow, especially to small, southern towns.school racism-2Which brings us to today, where black students in Bryan are four times as likely to be ticketed, arrested, suspended or expelled as their classmates with lighter skin.  Black students are also less likely to be selected for honours classes or given awards.

When DeVos was asked during her disastrous interview for 60 Minutes about institutional racism in the schools, she replied, “We’re studying it carefully. And are committed to making sure students have opportunity to learn in safe and nurturing environments.”  Would this ‘studying it carefully’ be the same studies that she has ordered to be halted, such as the one in Bryan?

And now, let me tell you what happened to 13-year-old Trah’Vaeziah in Bryan last October.

Trah’Vaeziah Jackson, a student at Arthur L. Davila Middle School in Bryan, was frequently a victim of bullying – so much so that her mother, Yvola Polk, made frequent trips to the school to protest that the school was doing nothing to keep her daughter, and others like her (black) safe.  The school eventually sent a police officer to Ms. Polk’s home where he issued her a warning citation for trespassing. Trah_Vaeziah JacksonBut back to Trah’Vaeziah and her ordeal on a Friday afternoon last October.  The class was doing some sort of craft project involving hot glue guns and popsicle sticks in the hallway outside their classroom.  The teacher was inside the classroom and could not see the children.  As will happen when children are left unsupervised, a bit of horse play, some joking around started.  Long story short, Trah’Vaeziah accidentally burned another child’s arm with a popsicle stick that had hot glue on it.  The burn was not serious, the other child stated that they were just playing and teasing, but guess where Trah’Vaeziah was sent.  Yes, to the principal’s office, but only long enough to wait for the school police officer to come and escort Trah’Vaeziah to the Brazos County Juvenile Justice Center.

Once there, she cried as employees patted her down, cut off her hair extensions, and took her photo and fingerprints. She was served dinner — chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes and an apple in a plastic container with a carton of milk — but had no appetite.  Trah’Vaeziah had not yet been allowed to contact her mother – remember that this is a child of 13 years!  In the shower room, guards applied thick anti-lice shampoo to Trah’Vaeziah’s hair. As she washed and combed it, clumps fell out. Afterwards, she reluctantly changed from her school clothes, a T-shirt and jeans, into the detention uniform, an orange shirt with matching shorts. Then she was locked in her cell, which contained a sink, a toilet, and, instead of a bed, a stuffed blue mat atop a brick base. High on the wall was a sliver of a window, but she wasn’t tall enough to see outside.

It was after 8:00 p.m. when she was finally allowed to call her mother. She was held in the juvenile facility for three days until a judge finally released her on condition that she do 20 hours of community service and write an apology letter. She also stipulated that Trah’Vaeziah would have to keep a clean record until the next court date and couldn’t access social media, cellphones or cash. Any violation of the agreement would result in further detention.  All this for an accident that could have been avoided had the teacher been doing her job.  But wait … there’s more.

The following week, the school held a hearing on the incident, where Trah’Vaeziah was sentenced to five weeks in the district’s disciplinary alternative school.  Her mother argued and was able to get her sentence reduced, but I ask you … if that had been a white girl, would the consequences for an accident have been this severe?  I think not.

Before the investigation was halted, no less than 10 incidents where black students received harsher punishment than their white peers were discovered.  The importance of bringing a stop to institutional, or sanctioned racism in the schools cannot be stressed enough.   When our African-American students are bullied, are treated less fairly than their white counterparts, they feel that they do not belong here.  The dropout rate rises among those students, and when jail or juvenile detention is a part of their ‘punishment’, it is a mark already on their record.  They tend to give up at an early age.  It is what sociologists call the school-to-prison pipeline, a process of criminalizing youth that is carried out by disciplinary policies and practices within schools that put students into contact with law enforcement.

It should come as no surprise that Betsy DeVos is not only oblivious to the situation, but also unconcerned and uncaring.  Ms. DeVos, born with a silver spoon in her mouth, does not, even by her own admission, visit any of the troubled schools for which she is responsible.  She was, after all, the one who referred to historically black colleges as “pioneers of school choice”!  She has no teaching or public school experience and does not even support the idea of public schools, but has expressed her strong preference for charter schools that serve only a few, while draining money from the public school system that serves the majority.  She has called for massive budget cuts to the Department of Education at a time when schools are in desperate need of repairs, new textbooks, and teachers are supplying many of their students’ needs out of their own meager pay.DeVos caricatureBelow is a sample of one page from the investigative report as it stood at the time it was shuttered.  It is plain to see that there is definite evidence of racial disparity, despite what DeVos and her underlings claim.  And, as we all know, it is not just in Bryan, Texas, but all across the nation.  Now the question is:  what do we do about it?  investigative-report.gif

34 thoughts on “Schools Say ‘OK’ to Racism under DeVos/Trump

  1. Even though I voted for Trump I was always vehemently against Devos as Secretary of Education, which is saying something as I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the Devos family name is on so many places and buildings around here. I even wrote to Senator Stabenow and urged her not to vote for her. She emailed me back very quickly assuring me that she had no intention of doing so. While unlikely, as Trump’s focus is more on other things nowadays, I would like to see him take an active stance on exterminating racism in schools. It might do more to clean up his image, if only a little bit

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    • Welcome! Yes, at the time Trump nominated DeVos, I said she was the absolute least likely candidate for the job, for she had already made known her views on public schools and her love of charter schools that serve very few. But, alas, the Senate was … and still is, for that matter … in boot-licking mode, and she passed her confirmation hearing with flying colours. And just today I read that interest rates on student loans are expected to rise yet again. The goal, it might seem, is to make higher learning available only to the children of the 1%, while keeping the rest of us in factory and construction jobs forever. And I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Trump to concern himself with eradicating racism in the schools or anywhere else, for he himself is a racist who rubs elbows with white supremacy groups. Sigh. Time for some housecleaning come November, I think. The system of checks and balances cannot work where there is no balance.

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      • Right after the election I think the Republicans were just so excited to have one of theirs in office they were determined to undermine the Democrats as much as they could. Definitely not the case today, at least not as much. I don’t think Devos would be confirmed today, and definitely won’t be confirmed again if Trump wins his second term and wants her back

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        • You are right that they are not quite as chuffed to have Trump in office as they were a year ago, but he still holds the reins, he rules through intimidation. “You don’t want to support me? Fine, I will spend my time campaigning against you come November.” I think now they fear him, as much as anything. I see DeVos and Pruitt as the two worst picks in his cabinet, most damaging.

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  2. Dear Jill,

    My joy in life is not connected to how much monies I have in my pocketbook. My Mom, born and raised in Italy, loved this country,because anyone, if given a fair chance, could make something of themselves even if they started out in life with virtually nothing.

    Racism as practiced in Bryan, Texas in the schools is barring students from having a fair chance in life because of their color. This is not what the USA should be about but with the current presidential administration, it seems that acts of racism will be supported.

    This is simply unconscionable as to how unfairly the school and police acted towards a student of color, Trah’Vaeziah.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I so agree with you, my friend. I thought we dropped these racist attitudes 50 years ago when you and I were but teenagers. But suddenly, they have reared their ugly heads and I cannot understand why. Why does a man whose skin is lighter than mine, feel that makes him a better/smarter person? And when that attitude penetrates our education system? NO … just NO … it cannot be tolerated! I so want to go take that young girl’s hand, to say to her, “it’s alright … take my hand and i will lead you through this mess”. I want to hug her and say, “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry for the damage that has been done by Betsy DeVos, Jeff Sessions and others who do NOT speak for us all. “I’m sorry” because I wish things were different and I’ve tried to make them so, but I have failed.

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  3. It’s the politics of envy , stirred up by the media in their constant coverage of the wealthy , at the heart of most poor men is a desire to be rich, especially in our western democracies where self- advancement is the aim of all educational establishments.

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    • Yes, but … what is ‘rich’? Does an annual Bahama cruise, a BMW, a mansion and expensive clothes make one rich? Does it buy happiness? I think not, for I have none of the above … never been on a cruise, don’t even have a car, live in a rented townhouse, and have 2 pair of jeans, 3 pair of sweatpants, and t-shirts/sweatshirts & jammies, but not a single piece of clothing over $20, and yet I am happy. Or at least content most days. I have no desire for travel, clothes, jewels. I might like to have a car once again for autonomy, but otherwise, none of those things appeal to me. So, what is rich? For me … books and the ability to read/understand them. A family who loves and whom I love. A handful of close friends who overlook my flaws. The ability to laugh, to love, to think and to care. I am rich in ways that others will never know. I feel sorry for them, for they only think that they are rich.

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      • Jill I can see you are a contented person and you have found your niche but ask yourself what is the the average definition of rich and what is presented to us all as rich by the media. Although we can come to terms with a small income it does restrict our activities and this is hardest to bear for the young who want to see and feel the world around them. There is also a danger in the old saying ‘ be thankful for what you have ‘ ; it is a capitalist mantra and if no one had rejected such a doctrine the working man would still be in rags.
        ‘Stone walls do not a prison make ,
        Nor iron bars a cage;
        Minds innocent and quiet take
        That for a hermitage;
        If I have freedom in my love
        And in my soul am free,
        Angels alone , that soar above,
        Enjoy such liberty.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You give me much food for thought. Perhaps the average definition of rich sets up unreasonable expectations among everyone, but especially the young. What is rich? It’s all relative. I remember when I got my first $100 bill. I was 13, and had begun working full-time after school and on weekends, as a desk clerk in a hotel. I was paid once a month, $350 per month for 160 hours. When I held that $100 bill, I thought that $100 was the definition of rich. Today, for a family of 3 humans and 7 moggies, I spend $100 every week just on food. I remember when $1 million was considered huge wealth, yet now, the 1% look down their noses at those whose net worth is only $1 million. Are we teaching our children that being rich is the goal in life? If so, we are doing them a huge disservice. As I said, you have given me food for thought. But I’m thankful that I do not gauge my contentment in life in terms of money, else I would likely be suicidal!

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  4. It’s a disgrace , but we know privilege always considers its self worthy and not deserving the same laws that apply to others. Privilege regards equality as a dirty word and sees humanity in terms of class and position. We boldly declare all men to be equal but the condition of the world shows this is merely empty rhetoric. I walk my dog passed some local allotments and parked close by are the workers cars ; there are no Porsches, Jaguars or Rolls Royces among them yet none of these growers rely on their produce to survive. Not so among the poorer nations where crop failure means starvation.

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    • You are so right that ‘all men are created equal’ is empty rhetoric. What stymies me, though, is that even people living near or at the poverty level in this country favour laws that discriminate against the poor, against minorities. I don’t understand that at all.

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  5. You know, I consider myself a peaceful person. I subscribe to John Wesley’s philosophy of Do No Harm, Do All The Good You Can, and Stay In Love With God… But what this woman makes me feel (from day 1) is certainly NOT in line with those values… Someone should make her go sit in each of those schools for a month! As a student. Disguised as black! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… If I was a white parent and that was happening to non-white kids in my kids’ schools, I would have pulled them out. We know what it’s like to have a non-white daughter.

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    • I fully agree with you. I would love to see her brought down … made to live without her wealth for a while to see what other people go through. I’m uncertain why she even wanted this job, for she certainly doesn’t need the money and she is against public schooling, has said many times that it isn’t an effective use of money. Along with wishing to see her life a life of poverty for, say, a year, I’d like to see her have to do it in a predominantly poor, black neighborhood. Perhaps she would learn some humility and compassion?

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      • Wouldn’t it be interesting to make something like that a requirement before a candidate can run for office? I wonder how many of them would lose interest very quickly. Let’s face it. Even science tells us their minds are not wired like normal people. They need to go to the school of hard knocks for awhile.

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        • Most of them would turn tail and run after the first night. There was a politician … oh, it’s been several years ago, but I believe he was in California … and he spent a week living among the homeless just because he wanted to understand their challenges, their lives. I so admired him for that! I need to look that one back up … might make a nice post. And yes, experience is the best teacher, and it seems to me that these rich, privileged ones have no real life experiences, for they were mostly born into the lap of luxury. Makes them pretty shallow, self-focused individuals, I think.

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  6. Trump complains about all of his appointments that have not made it through congress. With the quality of individuals he selects and his revolving door turnover, it’s not surprising. She is a waste of a cabinet position that is advancing her anti-public school agenda. My 10 year old loves school, but Ms. Devos may be the reason we turn to home schooling.

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    • True … and with a more conscionable Congress, more of his nominees would have been rejected, such as Pruitt and DeVos. Those two stand to do the most long-term damage, I think. Homeschooling can be very rewarding, as I found when my daughter and I shared homeschooling duties for my granddaughter (now age 23). But the one drawback is the lack of socialization, and Natasha is still not at all comfortable around other people. Hopefully things turn around quickly and your son can remain in school, especially since he loves it.

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      • Very true. When you look at what’s happening with the flippant nomination of his doctor as HHS secretary, it’s a mess where he is the boy-king and we are subject to his whims. At least a federal court shut down his quest to end DACA. I just can’t believe he’s still in office.

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        • Yes, I applaud the court for telling him, for the third time, that unless he has good, provable reason, he cannot shut down DACA. I am concerned, though, for it looks like the Supreme Court is poised to give him his way with the Muslim travel ban. Kennedy is even leaning in favour of Trump, which surprises me.

          If his doctor gets confirmed by the Senate, then we will know that our Congress has been bought and paid for. This guy is about as moral as a bull moose!!! Like you, Don, I am surprised he is still in office, and even more surprised when I see that he still has the approval of about 40% of the voters. WHAT, pray tell, is there to approve of??? His foul language, his demeaning of women? His lies? His temper? His lack of literacy? I don’t get it! I just don’t get it.

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  7. As in the army, Ms. DeVos should be labeled “Not fit for Duty”. This gal’s actions are sickening. It’s outlandish what was done to that young girl. The state of Texas has a bad record of racial discrimination since long back.Years ago I was looking around for a teaching job. The Texas school system wanted a picture of me. You can guess why. 😦 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Texas ranks right up there with Mississippi and Alabama in systemic racism. These days, it isn’t limited to the south, as we are seeing it in the Midwest, and even in New England! Sigh. What is wrong with people? Can’t we just all get along?

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  8. Jill, in a cabinet with several unqualified candidates, she is top of mind as one of the worst. As a client once told me about why he changed consultants to our firm, he said he did not mind being told once in awhile that they did not know the answer, but when the right answer comes once in awhile that is not good. Keith

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    • Agreed. I think that she and Scott Pruitt are in the positions to do the most long-term damage. Your client made good sense. We all have to admit sometimes to not having the answer, but then we should go find it and learn from our mistakes.

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  9. When BDoW kicks in, I’m not going to be very benevolent towards Betsy de Vos, she goes straight down to poverty level for a start and then can sample the full three days this child did. Joining her will be the person who sent for the police in the first place for such a little accident.
    Cwtch.

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    • Good! I’d like to see her struggle to find money to buy a bag of rice. People like her have no idea what it means to live on a pittance or to have to decide between putting fuel in the car to go in search of a job or putting food on the table for the children.
      xxx Cwtch xxx

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  10. One of the most common dodges of politicians is the claim that they are “studying” the problem. Or, perhaps, forming a committee — for the same purpose. They know we will forget all about it in a day or two…..or an hour or two. Sigh….

    Liked by 3 people

  11. This post sickened me, Jill. I cannot believe that they incarcerated a 13-year-old girl like that. To tell you the truth, I’m surprised that the race riots of the 1960s haven’t repeated themselves yet. You’re right, you can’t be rid of these racist monsters soon enough.

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    • It sickened me to write it, too. I read several similar stories, but settled on Trah’Vaeziah’s to tell. By the time I was done, I wanted to smack Betsy DeVos upside the head! Like you, I’m surprised we aren’t seeing more pushback, but if this continues, along with the police killing unarmed black men, sooner or later the African-American community will say, “Enough!” And who could blame them. We need some intelligence and compassion in our government, but it is sorely lacking at the moment.

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