Sunday, March 8, 2015

Oak Park jumps the shark

From the Chicago Tribune (March 6, 2015):
A Black History Month event at Oak Park and River Forest High School may have kick-started a schoolwide discussion on race — but not in the way school officials intended.

Several white parents, none of whom would speak on the record, expressed confusion and dismay that their children were prevented from participating in a "Black Lives Matter" event Feb. 27 that was limited to black students only....

The white parents reported that their students were turned away when they tried to attend the Black Lives Matter event. The parents said they were offended that in a school and community that prides itself on diversity and inclusion that students who wanted to attend would be excluded.

[Principal Nathaniel] Rouse, who has been principal at the school for seven years, said the decision to allow only black students was based in an idea known as affinity grouping. In an affinity group, the philosophy is that students of one racial persuasion are able to express themselves fully and safely....

Though the affinity groups began with black students, Rouse said he hopes to have similar groups in the near future for white, Latino and Asian students. And once the students have had their say in the individual groups, he hopes to culminate the effort with a school-wide event that lets all students talk about race together.

A statement on the school's website is consistent with the Tribune article, although it doesn't mention that white students were turned away from the event, and it doesn't commit to holding a future "affinity group" meeting just for white students:
On a final note, some students and parents expressed confusion and concern about the event being for Black students only. Information about the event lacked clarity about this aspect of the conversation, and the high school is committed to improving communications in the future. Further conversations among and across other racial affinity groups shall take place at the high school in the coming months and into next year.

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