Education versus learning: the war against Black students



By Donald W.R. Allen, II

Guest Commentator


The Minneapolis Public Schools has become a school system that isn’t able to successfully engage and teach students of color, as seen by declining enrollment and low graduations rates with suspensions and expulsions that one could argue skew heavily towards Black students in the district.

In finding a solution to an ongoing challenge within an organization, it’s important to get information from the source. In this case, numerous calls to the Minneapolis Public Schools communications department went unreturned. If this were the same quality control the MPS is using for its students of color, this would explain one of many inactive, non-functioning components in the war against Black students in an educational environment.

Let’s start by trying to figure out the reasons for suspending a child in kindergarten. We already know minority students are suspended from Minneapolis Public Schools at drastically higher rates than their White peers, according to a report commissioned by the Minneapolis Foundation.

Those of us with common sense don’t need a report to see that Black youth in Minneapolis schools are not doing as well as expected — or, maybe these could be intentional outcomes. I guess there are some who think spending money on a report with data already known will solve some challenges…I guess?

Suspensions for the most part are used to deal with “severe violations.” During the 2005-2006 school year, 7,672 students (6.4 percent) were suspended one or more times for a total of 13,127 suspensions.

African American students made up 25.6 percent of general education students, but accounted for 63.5 percent of those suspended, according to Hennepin County Research, Planning and Development 2008. To add gas to the fire, only 6.9 percent of suspensions among general education students were for “severe violations.”

We must also look at the many definitions of “severe violations,” that are being used to disenfranchise students of color. Another question would be, “Is it ever okay to suspend a child in kindergarten to third grade?” What would be the motivation to take such a heinous action?

The Minneapolis Public Schools says it promises an inspirational education experience in a safe, welcoming environment for all diverse learners to acquire the tools and skills necessary to confidently engage in the global community. They go onto say, “We exist to ensure that all students learn. We support their growth into knowledgeable, skilled and confident citizens capable of succeeding in their work, personal and family lives into the 21st century.”

If this is the case, then who can answer the questions of ongoing failures within the school district for children of color — especially Blacks? This would put into perspective the notion that public schools are not created to teach Black students. Minneapolis Public Schools proves this statement with the wide disparities that gain momentum as proficiency drops by grade advancement for Black students in the district.

The outdated Jim Crow practices of suspension and expulsion before cordial and diplomatic resolutions shows the lack of “training the trainers” and the arrogance to not ask how. Training the trainers needs to be the top priority for the faltering school district that probably should be held in federal receivership until a more competent group of administrators and board are installed.


Donald W.R. Allen, II is editor in chief of the Independent Business News Network, with research provided by Brandon Royce-Diop of the African American Males in Education Advisory. He welcomes reader responses to