Year: 1996-1997
Month: March
Leader: Group H

Situation/Case Study:

An African-American student and her father claim "racism" in a language arts class. Dad didn't like a movie about slavery or books that are read. Student stated that students clapped at a whipping scene and teachers did nothing. Dad called the principal. Principal told teachers not to say anything to the student. Dad threatened to bring in an agency to deal with the issue.

A teacher in such a situation might feel frustrated because the administration isn't overtly supporting the staff and curriculum. Provide too much power to students and parents based only on avoiding conflict (racial, in this case). Afraid of what the student might tell her parents that is inaccurate, afraid of being called a racist. Teacher is restrained in her actions because of the school administrator's directive to limit conversation with the student and her father. Teacher feels unsupported by the administration. Teacher feels powerless and manipulated because the emphasis is placed on the issue of racism rather than on honesty. Teacher feels frustrated because of feeling alone, powerless, threatened, and not supported by the administration. Who's the "Boss" here? Teachers feel threatened and feel a need to back up everything they do. They are hurting the student by "backing down." They are not supported by the administration. Teacher feels frustrated in this situation because the girl is being given an incredible amount of power and is failing in school. The emphasis is being placed on her alleged issue of racism instead of her academic and personal behavior in school. Teacher feels frustrated because her hands have been tied by her administration and that the student seems to have the principal wrapped around her finger. It appears that in this situation the tail is wagging the dog. Teacher feels frustrated because the student is manipulating the system to avoid responsibility and consequences and getting away with it because of her race and the teacher is being asked to let her get away with it. Teacher feels frustrated because the power has shifted from teacher to student. The teacher has tried to bring in extra materials to make the course more diverse and relevant to the students; however, it was an unappreciated gesture.

Theories behind practice:

Impact on others:

A team meeting is needed with the parents, student, teacher and administrator in a "meeting of the minds" or for mediation. Invite the father to discuss the curriculum with the team and administration. Mediate, document, and separate the issues (academic and racism). The teacher seems to have met the father head on and slowed him down. As a team, write a proposal to the administration regarding dealing with conflict - not avoiding it!