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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 11, 2013 at 7:36 AM

Discipline for black students in Seattle schools

White teachers can effectively teach black students

While I fully empathize with the frustration and dismay expressed about the long-delayed elephant in Seattle’s classrooms — i.e. hugely disproportionate rates of disciplining, particularly among male students of color — it really alarms me that the authors appear to send a message suggesting to some less-engaged readers that only teachers of color can be effective with students of color [“The problem of racial disparity in Seattle school discipline,” Opinion, April 5].

“Studies show that students of color have better academic outcomes when they are taught by teachers of color.” What empirically-based research is being cited here? This is a dangerous conclusion for Seattle School District “race experts” to be espousing in a city with our racial demographics.

It’s not likely that the Seattle will have the number of teachers of color it would need to teach all of its students of color any time soon.

So, I hope none of the district’s white teachers draw the mistaken conclusion that they can’t be as effective with kids of color as a teacher of color. Hogwash.

I’m African American and proud of it. If you ask me to choose between a black and a white teacher for my child, I am going to check their professional resumes, experience and overall social-cultural demeanors before I consider skin-color benefits.

We still have enough issues with low expectations of students of color as it is, without providing ready-made excuses for low expectations.

Al Smith, former vice president of B.F. Day Elementary, Seattle

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