A critical decision every parent makes for their child is deciding where they will go to school. We want the best for our children and know how foundational a good education is to reaching their full potential. In addition to academics, the school environment can play a big role in how a child feels about themselves, how they develop socially and how they ultimately see their future.
And… for our children, both adoption and race can come into play at school, too.
In a recent survey of adoptive parents of Black children, the majority of families reported that enrolling their child in a racially diverse school was very important to them. For some families, however, this may be a challenge. The sad reality is that across the country, many of the highest rated schools academically have very little, if any, diversity. But finding a good school that also gives a Black child the opportunity to see others that look like themselves may be well worth the search.
Parents of color completing our survey, in fact, reflected back to childhood experiences of being the only or one of only a few Black people in a classroom was one of the hardest times of their lives --- times when they felt the sting of discrimination most clearly, even several decades later.
"We were reading Huckleberry Finn and I remember getting into an argument about the "n word" and why it was offensive. I was the only black student in my class, so I asked my teacher why she didn't say anything about why I might be offended. I remember storming out of the classroom because I was so angry."
Parents of Black children, no matter the parents’ race, also often reported another phenomenon in the classroom: a difference in expectations based on skin color. Over time, they became acutely aware that different expectations were being set for their Black children. Some were clearly stereotyped for bad behavior and/or punished more severely than their White counterparts. It was among our adoptive parents raising both White and Black children that these differences were noticed most distinctly.
“All my life, I'd been ingrained to think that authority is fair and ought to be trusted. It was a very eye opening experience to realize that wasn't true. My son could be a prime example of disparate school punishments given to black kids.”
And, sadly, the incidents our parents reported are not unique. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection1, Black students are nearly three times more likely to be held back as their White peers. The report also found that disparities in discipline being meted out to Black students began as early as preschool and continued through every level of schooling.
“The White principal of my son's special needs school called the police on him in the second grade.”
The desire to be a part of this important discussion is why we have selected The Color of Education as the next topic for the Our Children Initiative. Much like our previous Roundtable, Raising Black Boys, this event is designed to be an honest dialogue about realities in our schools today, assisting both parents and educators alike in understanding the issues and constructively addressing ways to help our children succeed.
The moderator for the evening, Miranda Johnson, is a faculty member at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law and the Associate Director of Loyola's Education Law and Policy Institute. Our panelists include educators, counselors and administrators from across the Chicagoland area.
Please join us. This is an important discussion with a lot at stake.
Quotes above taken from an online survey of adoptive parents of Black children fielded by The Cradle in November, 2015. 249 respondents participated.
1 Civil Rights Data Collection, http://ocrdata.ed.gov/