Segregation “By Any Means Necessary”

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By: Dirk Tillotson

Brother Malcolm would be spinning in his casket if he heard the so called BAMN (by any means necessary) caucus using his words for an agenda he certainly would not agree with, calling the attempt to integrate some special education students in Oakland into regular classes, “the New Jim Crow”.

Ha, as most Black families whose kids are in SpEd would agree—it’s a one way ticket to nowhere, and the stats back it up.  A mere 8.6% of all special education students completed the A-G requirements, the courses required to apply to UC or CSU, 4.6% are reading on grade level in 9th grade, and the high school exit exam pass rate was 10.1%.  We know this.  It’s not working.

And I know this first hand, last week I got one of those calls.  “Johnny” had been suspended multiple times, and after years of urging by my friend, the school assessed him and created an Individualized Education Plan (the special education plan describing the services he should get).  They immediately told her that he had to go to a different school, move into a class with high needs special education students from 3 grades and even though he was academically average or above average, he would not be going to regular classes anymore and would have to earn that right to access the regular curriculum.

She said, “I am not signing anything without my lawyer.”  Which I guess, is me, and she didn’t.  Johnny was suspended at the time, and she got a call that he could not return to the school, and had to go to the new program.  Again she said she didn’t sign anything, and called me.  To make a long story short, they had no right to do this, she didn’t sign anything, but they still wanted to argue with me about it.

“He has a right to attend that school, unless you show me legally that you changed his placement, he is coming to school tomorrow.”  The woman on the phone says the principal will call me back.  They call my friend and say that Johnny can come to school.  Then they suspend him the next day.

Johnny is a smart kid, he has problems, has seen too much, has a deep reservoir of anger, and he can be difficult in school.  He does need extra support, he needs to better cope with frustration and his own anger, but generally putting him in a separate class with all the other students who have the most severe challenges and giving him less academic content will not help him.

In the end, we did visit the new school, because they just don’t want him at his current school and it’s clear they will make his and his guardian’s life hell.  And next year we will apply to charters and look at other programs, but even the teacher in the class acknowledged as we left, that the real goal was to get him out of the class.  Which begs the question—then why is he there in the first place?

Maybe the so called “BAMN” folks should choose a new slogan, “Segregation Now, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever.”

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