Pinellas School Board members attending Day 2 of their annual retreat heard an impassioned message this morning from board member Mary Brown, who announced during a discussion on discipline that she wanted to talk about "the elephant in the room" when it comes to student misbehavior.
As the district has moved back toward a system of neighborhood schools, Brown said, she once again is being approached by teachers in south Pinellas schools who say they feel intimidated by black students, particularly black males.
"We have had black students tell white teachers, 'We don't want you here because this is a black school,' " Brown said. "We have to deal with this right up front so students won’t feel they’re in control. We have to help teachers understand they have to take control of their classrooms and not be intimidated by any child."
Nina Hayden, the board's other African-American member, immediately backed Brown up, saying that for many black males, school is a testing ground.
"When they come up toe to toe on the street with a white male or an Asian male, that’s how they decide their turf," Hayden said. "We have got to think outside the box and start doing things differently to attack these types of issues."
Unless teachers feel confident that they have the skills -– and the back-up from their principals -- to deal with such issues, said Hayden, a public defender, more children will end up in the court system, wasting taxpayers' dollars.
Donna Winchester, Pinellas Education Reporter