One of my favorite movies of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird. Way before I was involved in matters with special education, I found this movie to be a true picture of society. Even now. Everyone assumes the African-American special needs man was the one to commit a murder. People called this person different names back then, but political correctness has changed the label, but not the stereotypes.
I look at what is going on in Wilmington, with the school to prison pipeline. Way too many of our youth are exposed to violent crimes, and many of them feel there is now way out. When did we allow this to happen? How many of these students may have special needs that have never been identified or diagnosed? Who is to blame? The schools? The parents? The students? Maybe it is a combination of all three. We seem to have forgotten about the spirit of the civil rights movement. Prejudice has taken on a new form in the 21st century. It’s no longer about the Ku Klux Klan running around burning crosses and lynching black people. It’s about placement and segregation.
All of the schools in Wilmington are divided into two types: the haves and the havenots. The Charter School of Wilmington is a shining example of the haves. Only the best and brightest get into this school. But the selection process is flawed. The fact that only a couple handfuls of African-Americans graduated this year is a clear sign of that. The fact that the school as a whole only has .6% of special needs students is another. I refuse to believe that the school only looks at the best and the brightest. I truly believe they handpick who they want and who they don’t want.
Boo had to find out the hard way how society views him. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and he paid a heavy price. His best friend in the world was a girl named Scout, and even all of her hard work, supporting him and befriending him came at a price. We need more Scouts in the world. We need our state government to take a very hard look at what is going on in Wilmington. It is considered one of the most violent cities in the country. Where is our state pride? This is a stain on our state that can’t just be washed away with a simple swipe of a brush. It’s going to take a lot of hard work. So while our government celebrates the impending release of Smarter Balanced Testing and the great reform of our schools in the race to the top, let’s be mindful that this only means so much as how our state is viewed. And with Wilmington as the largest city in our state being one of the most violent, it doesn’t matter how great the government thinks our best schools are when we can’t take care of the ones that need it most.
If we spent as much time building up the charters in that area as we did on cleaning up Wilmington, we could do wonders. Instead we allow these schools to cherry pick who they want and don’t want. Stop the segregation, stop the hurt, stop these people from thinking they are not productive members of society. Stop sending a message of intolerance and shame.