***The following are two emails I produced after two meetings with BIRDVILLE ISD’s administration concerning Richland High Schools disproportionate discipline data concerning students of color and the ongoing usage of racist symbols as the schools mascots.***
February 15th, 2019
Good Afternoon Mr. Baskerville & Mr. Simmons,
It was a pleasure meeting with you both today, February 15th, 2019. I do appreciate both of you taking the time out of your busy schedules to discuss racial disparities in disciple at Richland High School, and the overall racial climate thereof.
I did learn today of many different initiatives that have been implemented by Richland and its students since 2015. Thank you so much, Mr. Simmons, for sharing with me all of these initiatives. As you asked in the meeting, I do recognize these efforts and applaud Mrs. Rix for her continued growth in handling race at Richland.
I thank you Mr. Baskersville, for sharing your lived experiences, and bringing the perspective full circle. It is your lived experiences and hope for students of color, and all students, that I hope we can build off of, in order to make Richland a better school for students of color.
I do hope that my candor is not seen as mere confrontation, as I sometimes come off as very passionate about issues of race and injustice, especially when it comes to young people. I do apologize in humility if my passion got in the way of respect. I truly believe you both could be a catalyst of great things for Birdville ISD, and I believe after meeting with you both that there is hope to see continued improvement at Richland High School.
My experience as a community leader in Haltom City puts me in the unique position of not just putting bandages on hurt students of color, it pushes me to speak out on the injustices the affect them and their families. I would have never spoken out if it were not for their encouragement to do so, or their trust to say what needs to be said.
As you mentioned Mr. Baskerville, unfortunately, it is rare to see a white male(especially in the south) to be speaking out on the injustices of persons of color. I count it an honor to have gained the trust and feel with that great trust comes a responsibility to not do as many white people would do, just brush it under the rug, and say “hey, it’s not affecting me, let “them” deal with it”. That isn’t me. I have listened, studied, and looked ultimately to my faith tradition, Jesus. I can find nowhere when Jesus was silent on things that affected the vulnerable. He was overtly bold about calling into account those that have the power to do something, and yet they did nothing.
Those in positions of power, like both of you, have the opportunity to do something that has a lasting legacy in Birdville. You have the opportunity to create a microcosm of “the beloved community” as Dr. King called it.
With that in mind, I believe we concluded today two things in our meeting
- I could be more bold with sharing the good that Richland is doing in the areas of racial reconciliation. I agreed, and am willing to.
- The data doesn’t lie, there is an issue at Richland(and Birdville HS) of racial disparity of discipline of students of color, as well as a lingering legacy of the Confederacy( Johnny Rebs, Dixie Belles, Belles choir, etc.) that still needs to be removed.
As we had a lengthy discussion, you did ask me a few times to share what I believe could be solutions to creating a better environment at Richland, and per time I was not able to share them.
Here are some rough ( can be later discussed in detail) plans that I believe would be necessary to completely change the culture at Richland High School:
#1 All Staff Training ( and continued training throughout the year) on Relationship and Social Capital Building Research (see John Hattie; Visible Learning). Research shows that a student that feels like they belong and participates with a voice in their educational environment, is a student that will work and perform for their teachers, and for themselves. Community and belonging is a culture that is created and earned, not assumed. I have read and researched the current training by Richland, but I believe it does not address the implicit bias component in working with students of color. By training all school staff on how to build relationships, identify biases, identify privilege, identify micro-aggressions, etc. with students and how to allow students to be a stakeholder in their education, the statistics could be drastically reduced.
Training: One-day and continued mandatory professional development and ongoing support for all school staff working on implicit bias and community building. Trained staff would be willing to be “on-call” to work with teachers/staff on how to work with and advocate for students of color.
# 2 Community Decisions/Accountability Committee on ISS/Out of School Suspensions by using an in a school community effort in making these decisions. Schools can eliminate the heat of the moment decision making that takes place during a normal ISS/Out of School Suspension decision. Since students are valued and respected, administrators and teachers should take time to count the cost of suspension. This committee would be called together before a decision is made, and it would consist of teachers, admin, counselors. The teacher and admin that first handled the request would not be a part of the decision making process. An ISS/Suspension review committee would meet once a semester to review suspensions and process the student’s outcomes after the suspension, as well as the validity of the suspension. This committee would be made up of community stakeholders as well as in school staff. No names would be used in these meetings, per FERPA. Yet gender and ethnicity would be accounted for.
# 3 ISS/Out of School Suspension Re-Entry: In School Suspension (ISS) normally consists of 8 hours of a student sitting at a desk, by themselves, with no interaction from a teacher besides the requests to do their work and not to talk. This mimics a prison setting, which perpetuates the school to prison pipeline for at-risk students. This valuable time could be used to not lecture, but work in a relational manner with those suspended students on modifying their behavior, as well as giving them alternatives to their behavior. A designated and highly trained professional could be added to school staff to not only facilitate the in school suspension ( which could be given another name), yet they also could serve as a liaison to teachers and staff on training and an ongoing go-to person for handling issues. Just as teachers have liaisons that help them with curriculum, so could the district provide a new position to help these facilitators. Why waste 8 hours? A trained ISS professional would be much more valuable to that student. Outside school suspension, when warranted, consists of a student sitting at home doing nothing. Free time away from school for at-risk youth, why wouldn’t they want to repeat their behaviors so they can get more out of school free time? Would you rather that student be in attendance on campus? If an out of school suspension is warranted, a student on re-entry back to school should be in ISS for an entire day to discuss their actions, and to make a plan of action for themselves on how they can improve. This can piggyback off of the already implemented Restorative Justice practices started at Richland.
#4 Dress Code Violations: A lot of interaction with discipline first starts with small infractions such as dress code violations. Dress code violations also unfairly target students of color, especially black girls. Richland needs to report this data too, and be held accountable for who they discipline and how. The infraction must be written up, with the racial and gender data of the student, as well as what they were coded for. This is an issue I have heard of by Richland students of color for many years, yet since the data isn’t recorded, the answer is always subjective by staff and administration. This is why dress code violations need to be relaxed, girls bodies need to be less policed, and the administration must be held accountable by who they are “coding” and why.
# 5 Intentionally hiring and recruiting more staff and administration that represent the student bodies racial makeup. By 2020-2021 school year, staff and administration should have student body represented with appropriate staff and admin.
# 6 Starting now, BISD admin and Richland Admin have tough conversation and plan of action to remove existing Confederate symbols, never removed with the Confederate flag in the 1990s.
The 2019-2020 school year is the goal to remove. Removal of and replacing the names of the following: Johnny Reb Mascot, Dixie Belles, Southern Belles, Football helmet removal of the sword, Johnny Reb cheer squad, half stars, and bars removal.
The color red white and blue are patriotic and the name Rebel, separated from its southern heritage, is not a bad thing. Yet even half of the stars and bars still takes from the Confederate Flag, which still creates the initial feeling by students of color ( and rivaling school, especially while traveling) of a threat to their safety.
#7 Goal of accountability: With standards in place, the 2019-2020 school year will be evaluated and the goal will be to reduce the suspension rates of students of color in half. If the goal is not met, new standards, systems, and staff must be evaluated as to why suspension rates remain high.
As I stated when we met, I am more than willing and ready to work alongside BISD to help facilitate change, as well as being a positive force for the great things going on in BISD.
My experience and background have more than trained me to help facilitate any programs/systems and consult the district on how to move forward.
I look forward to our next meeting and putting into action realistic plans for change, as well as the ongoing promotion of great strategies being used by BISD to serve its students.
Good Afternoon Mrs. Rix, Mr. Baskerville, and Mr. Simmons,
Thank you again for taking the time to meet with me yesterday. Thank you also for allowing me to include Mr. Haggard. I appreciate your time in the ongoing conversation about disparities in discipline concerning students of color at Richland High School, as well as the necessary removal of Confederate symbols at Richland.
These are my notes from the 3/4/2019 meeting (please amend any and all errors I have made from my notes if I have misrepresented any of your positions or comments) :
- Mrs. Rix informed me that this years theme at Richland is Hope and her back to school theme this year for staff and students was Greatest Showman.
- Mrs. Rix and Mr. Simmons addressed #1- #5 of my meeting note document titled “Final BISD Meeting Outcomes 2.15.2019”
- Mrs. Rix informed me about DaVerse Lounge
- Mrs. Rix informed me about her staff attending Ron Clark training in small numbers every year.
- Mrs. Rix informed me about Restorative Discipline beginning in 2017-2018 school year
- Mrs. Rix informed me about Jim Walsh. Richland tries to only suspend for 1 day instead of 3. More time in classrooms.
- Mrs. Rix informed me that ISS is often a quick decision
- Mrs. Rix informed me about the No’s of Dress Code. Dress code violations are not disciplined, just given a warning and chance to correct.
- Mrs. Simmons informed me about the PBIS and Behavioral RTI started this school year at all campuses across BISD, which came under Mr. Baskerville’s leadership. This gives accountability to discipline data for each campus in which a campus administrator and campus teachers are in this committee.
- Mrs. Rix does not know if discipline data is for individual students, or if it is from discipline encounters.
- Mrs. Rix, Mr. Baskerville, and Mr, Simmons believes that Richland is a very inclusive environment.
- Mrs. Rix maintains that discipline is indiscriminate, not based on gender or race.
- Mr. Baskerville, Mrs. Rix, and Mr. Simmons believe that students that are economically disadvantaged and students of color have a harder time with resources, which is why they would be disciplined more.
- Mr. Baskerville, Mrs. Rix, and Mr. Simmons believe some students enjoy going to ISS.
Discussion from Notes:
In light of listening to Mrs. Rix give her statements in addressing issues I raised in my previous meetings with Mr. Baskerville and Mr. Simmons, I spent most this meeting writing notes and listening to Mrs. Rix explain what is currently happening at Richland. I do appreciate her time and effort to explain current discipline practices and her work to build a culture at Richland High School. I did not have ample time to discuss and give feedback to Mrs. Rix in our meeting time.
These are the items that I would like to continue to push and discuss:
- Discipline Practices:
Mrs. Rix was kind enough to explain the discipline practices at Richland, yet what was left out of the discussion of practices, was who gets disciplined. I did bring this to attention in the meeting, yet received a strong emotional response. The miscommunication I believe is from my assertion that students of color are disciplined at higher rates than their white classmates. Somehow what is heard is that I am insinuating that Mrs. Rix or educators at her school, in general, are making purposeful decisions to discipline students of color. As I stated in our meeting, Mrs. Rix, Mr. Baskerville, and Mr. Simmons have all approached these meetings with subjective, qualitative data, heavy in emotional pleas.
I have intentionally approached this inquiry starting in December 2018, to try and get to the bottom of these numbers. (I was ignored on two separate occasions, until finally, I spoke at a school board meeting, presenting the same data, and finally got a meeting in February 2019.) Even after I pushed the data yet again at the meeting on 3/4/2019, I did get an acknowledgment from Mr. Simmons that they did agree from our previous meeting on 2/15/2019, that there is something to look into here that might be a problem. Yet, the meeting on 3/4/2019 went back to “don’t you see all these things Mrs. Rix is explaining to you” as justification that an answer has been arrived to. It has not. After pushing on what these numbers are, how they have come to be, and why are they happening, I received no answer besides, for the second time now “where did you get those numbers” in which I reply “from the TEA website under PEIMS discipline data,” It seems that Mr. Rix, Mr. Simmons, and Mr. Baskerville are somewhat mystified that these numbers are available to the public and confused as to what they represent. I also asked “aren’t you the ones reporting the data” with a response of “yes, but it doesn’t sound right”.
So what can be clearly seen is that on 3/4/2019 I got a full explanation of how students are disciplined and even lengths of times for discipline, but never an answer on who is disciplined and accountability for the very numbers required by federal law to report. This is where I made the comment that I am a community member, with only a concern for students of color and their families. I have access to this information as public knowledge and have every right to question and hold accountable the institution of Richland High School as to WHY these numbers are so high concerning students of color. I also shared in our meeting that this isn’t some sort of enigma that’s just happening at Richland, it is a national conversation, with copious amounts of data, journal articles, government statements, and research that informs the subject of students of color being disciplined at higher rates than their white peers.
Here are some resources:
All being said, I am not implying that Mrs. Rix or Richland HS are intentionally trying to discipline students of color at higher rates than their white peers. What I am saying is that there are underlying issues at play which through research and evidence-based practices can be solved.
II. DaVerse Lounge
One of the ways Mrs. Rix tries to explain training her staff on issues of race or discrimination is asserting that they have a grant for a presentation called DaVerse Lounge. While this is a great workshop, what it is not, is training on issues of race, discrimination, or most importantly, implicit bias within educational settings. DaVerse Lounge is an entertainment based workshop that deals a wide range of subjects, none of which specifically involves race, discriminant, or implicit bias.
There are some great things that have been implemented, like Restorative Discipline (which is peer to peer) and the PBIS and Behavioral RTI are great accountability standards for discipline started in 2018. Evidence based training and professional development in the areas of race, discrimination, and implicit bias has to be a top priority for Mrs. Rix.
DaVerse Lounge is not discrimination, race, or implicit bias training. I emailed DaVerse Lounge recently to find what exactly they do at Richland:
As we can see, DaVerse Lounge is a great workshop, and I am confident it serves a great purpose. Much credit to Mrs. Rix in trying to cultivate a great culture of the community to Richland. It must be stated again though what this program is not. It is not professional discrimination, race, or implicit bias training. I asked Mr. Simmons at our 2/15/2019 meeting what had been done since 2015, especially in light of a coaches incident with a black female student. Mr. Baskerville said “you will never know” and I said “well was there any training to help the coach to become a better educator on race and discrimination” and Mr. Simmons pointed to DaVerse Lounge, and said “the last three years this has been the training Mrs. Rix and teacher have had to go through.” Again, while I do give Mrs Rix much credit for such a workshop, and for even taking the time to get a grant to pay for such, it is not what is necessary to tackle issues of race, discrimination, and implicit bias.
If we are to take DaVerse Lounge as the standard for accountability for teachers and admins in the areas of race, discrimination, and implicit bias then we must use it as the metric for Richland. From the email above DaVerse Lounge trains teachers on student voice. As Mr. Simmons said in our meeting on 2/15/2019, “ I believe in student voice”, which I do find as a refreshing approach to education. Yet if we use this metric of accountability then we must put it to test to see if it is true. When a student and their family of color speak out about issues of race and discrimination, they should be believed and listened to, at any time, but especially in a school in which they are the minority to white students and staff. The dynamics of power are at play in an environment that holds the majority, especially in those that have the paid duty to teach children and keep them safe.
So if we use the metric of DaVerse Lounge, we find that educators and administration at Richland have now been trained to listen to student’s voice, as well as connecting with them. If Mrs. Rix were asked by The Hudson Foundation for accountability on how their grant funds were being used, can Richland produce quantitative and qualitative data to accurately represent how their students of color are feeling and being represented? Why would a school seek grant funds for a program, if they weren’t going to implement the very professional development they are receiving? Isn’t this a waste of grant resources? Is DaVerse Lounge just for show, just to prove Richland is doing something about their issues of race and discrimination? I can’t answer these questions, but data can.
III. TEA Discipline Data
We do have data, submitted to the Texas Education Agency, by Richland High school, that gives the public an insight into how national trends ( mentioned above) measure up to their local schools trends. From the data I have presented multiple times, Richland High School disciplines students of color, at a higher rate than their white classmates. See attached data:
Continuing with the standard metric of DaVerse Lounge and student voice, we must use stories and qualitative data. From incidents I have forementioned, and in light of recent incidents, it seems as Richland and BISD fears these words: discrimination and racism. When families and students bring up these terms, they are told “ No this isn’t discrimination…this is….”, why when a student or their family uses their voice, can’t Richland use their training from DaVerse Lounge and listen and then try and connect?
IV. Restorative Discipline:
I must applaud again the implementation of Restorative Discipline/Justice at Richland HIgh School. It is a great step in finding innovative approaches to discipline, in peer to peer conflict. It looks to solve core issues rather than quick reactions to throw students into suspensions. The criticism I have, again, is that when Mrs. Rix or Mr. Simmons describe these type of programs, it is always student centered. Meaning they have not completely made Restorative Justice holistic. A holistic approach will include teachers, staff, and administrator at Richland. Justice cannot happen without all parties involved. We, that love students and want the best for them, cannot be those that participate in victim blaming of the students that often have the hardest time in school. Economically disadvantaged and all students of color have been mentioned in both meetings that we have had, yet they are always seen as the only component as to why they would be disciplined more, than their white counterparts.
V. Blaming Parents and Students of Color:
I have heard repeated attempts from our meeting to justify inequalities in discipline as the fault of students of color that are economically disadvantaged students that lack resources, so that is why they would be disciplined more than their white counterparts. While I have admittedly and one hundred percent agreed with Mr. Baskerville about the inequalities that face students of color, those being historic oppression that have led to inequality, which have stemmed from injustices done to people of color in our nation, and specifically black students and families. I not only have agreed with him, I would say “Amen”, no doubt that white students have a leg up on economics resources(class) and issues of race (privilege) that allow them to be able navigate our society so easily and without any hiccups at all along their educational journeys. This is where we agree! This is why we both work with students and their families! We both have hearts pointed in the direction of caring for and seeing the success of students!
Where we depart, is the assertion that since the above is true, that this is why they would be disciplined more than their white classmates. In which I must point out that at this point is where the victims of oppression, began to get blamed for the very oppression that they didn’t ask for. To blame parents (http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/) and students for being disciplined more is buying in, and actually continuing with systems of oppression. It continues to marginalize students of color, rather than bringing them into the conversation. It continites to find no blame in educators or administrators, and places the entire system of oppression and onus of discipline on the student. What a weight this must be to bear for a student of color, knowing that they might come from a very hard home life, maybe their parents struggle to even pay the light bill, to provide food, and when they come to school with all of that on their shoulders, that they are then double burdened with a system that doesn’t recognize its oppression, it actually puts the weight back on that student of color. Discrimination though knows not class, as discrimination of a student of color will even happen when that student has affluence and solid resources at home. That being said, racism and implicit bias know no bounds. I believe Mr. Baskerville and Mr. Simmons have both said that providing more resources, counselors, mentors, etc would help these students along their journey, and I say Yes! I agree! Yet what we cannot do along this journey of reconciliation and justice, is forget those that are doing the oppressing. When I use these terms I again, for the record, am not saying Richland or Mrs. Rix is actively trying to oppress any students of color or am I asserting that they are trying to be racist or discriminate. This is simply not my point. We must move past the emotions of what disparities of discipline indicates. I am not indicating collusion against students of color. What I have mentioned time after time though through our discussions is the need for discrimination, race, and implicit bias training of Richland staff and accountability for the data.
VI. PBIS and Behavioral RTI
I am so encouraged about the PBIS and Behavioral RTI committees. I believe this is a huge step towards accountability at Richland, as well as all schools in BISD. This kind of innovative thinking is exactly what I would have advised, and similar to what my previous discussion of solutions. I applaud this effort and will gladly share this accomplishment of BISD within the community.
VII. Dress Code Violations
Dress code rules were discussed by Mrs. Rix in our meeting, though again, the inquiry of my questioning from our previous meeting on 2/15/2019 was missed. My inquiry into dress code violations was not on the infraction themselves, it is on WHO is getting dress coded. What Mrs. Rix and Mr. Simmons don’t seem to realize is that students of color, specifically Latina and Black female students are unfairly dress coded opposed to their white classmates. My point of contention is that there is no concrete way to track who has been given a dress code violation, and who hasn’t. That is why I mentioned, that there needs to be a system of accountability, (which could easily be absorbed by the PBIS/RTI committee) in which dress code violations are recorded, with due diligence. Meaning a copy would go to the school, and a carbon copy would go to the student(parents). Mrs. Rix did explain that dress code violations are not disciplined, which is great! What is also great, is that there are items of clothing for them to choose from in case what that might be see through. I applaud both the non-discipline of students and for the offering of options of clothing! What is not understood by Mrs. Rix is that these type of encounters with staff vs. students of color is one more way for marginalization to happen to students of color. These encounters of discrimination are microaggressions, that white staff, especially men, do not understand. This is why adequate staff training on implicit bias is again necessary. So, to conclude with dress code violations, I believe it would be wise for Richland to set up a system of accountability by recording violations and keeping them for review by a committee. I would also appreciate to see a years worth of data created by these infractions, and then be able to tell the community of the findings.
For more information about dress code violations and students of color:
What an opportunity Mrs. Rix, Richland High School and Birdville ISD has to really pave the way! Can we imagine for a moment a school that would lean in to these issues rather than run away from them? Can we imagine a school that would set up listening circles and time for any students, but in this case making a space that students of color can share their concerns, without fear of being ignored or told they are wrong? Can we imagine a school that at its foundational mascot was aimed at marginalizing a community, and including only white students?
VIII. Remaining Confederate Symbols Removal
This is the last point of discussion I’d like to make in this written piece. As stated before, on 2/15/2019, Richland must take down the remaining tenants of the confederacy that still point to a racist past foundation. I will gladly use the racism term now, as any student of history of the US, and even Mr. Baskerville has admitted in our 2/15/2019 meeting that Johnny Reb is of course a racist figure. Let us take a look at why the mascot Johnny Reb, the Johnny Reb cheer squad, Dixie Belle, and Southern Belle names must be removed immediately for Richland to continue to pave the way in being an inclusive school, that values the most marginalized in their midst.
As Mrs. Rix stated in our 3/4/2019 meeting, she has been at and around Richland long enough to see changes to the mascots and flags of Richland. We must be reminded of why in which BISD would name Richland High School mascot Johnny Reb and gladly make the Confederate flag the centerpiece of their school with the opening in 1961. We know that in 1961 was at a point in our nation’s history in which race and segregation were beginning to be legislated against. In 1954 Brown vs Board of education happened, and not until the early 1960’s did Texas began to finally follow the ruling and begin to integrate their schools. So Richland, being a overwhelmingly white area during the era, decided to go with the symbols of the Confederacy, which is also a symbol of white nationalism. Most importantly the Confederates are ultimately losers from a societal point of view, as they rightly lost their battle to keep their land and the institution of slavery. So why would Richland choose a losing flag and symbol? The answer is in what it represents. It doesn’t represent heritage, it represents hate towards specifically black people. Any black American can tell you the fear it strikes. So in the midst of the civil rights era Richland chose to actively go towards marginalizing people of color and centering whiteness as a foundation for their school. Can you imagine the fear it must have struck(and still strikes today) when Richland visited(visits) majority black schools, at athletic events or any scholastic event? Richland represented the priorities of south at is foundation, oppression and chattel slavery that saw black bodies as property, rather than humans.
So the question that must be asked is, why? Why would Mrs. Rix or those over her, why would BISD administration still allow and be persuaded by Confederate heritage supporters to keep such lingering figures of oppression? Why is BISD scared of changing racist figures? Is this the message BISD wants to send to its students and families of color, and the community as a whole?
We know what Johnny Reb is. Johnny Reb was the Confederate soldier that fought for slavery and the south. There is no excuse as to why to keep such a mascot or even allow a cheer squad to bear the name. How disgusting that this has been allowed to continue into 2019. The Dixie Belles is also a Confederate symbol, as the Dixie represented the states of the (defeated) confederacy. The Southern Belle choir also represent white women, which excludes students of color.
I call on Mrs. Rix and Mr. Baskerville, and ultimately Dr. Brown to stand on the side of those that have been marginalized with such hate, and say we will no longer allow this racist history to define us. If your institution wants to be inclusive, shouldn’t you tear down any walls that prohibit such?
University of Texas at Arlington removal of Johnny Reb and Dixie Belles, and Confederate history:
Garland ISD removes Dixie Symbols:
Texas Capitol Removal:
Of course, you can ultimately look to our nation’s history. We didn’t want the confederacy to define us, there was a civil war to prove it. It is far past time of Richland to remove these lingering symbols. That is, if inclusion is the ultimate goal of BISD.
I am enthused to continue to work with BISD and Mrs. Rix, to finding solutions together. Though hard and emotional, this change must continue to happen. I do not want to be a deterrent to Richland, I want to be an active participant in the betterment of Richland, and the amazing students and their families that call it home.
Last, I look forward to the day when I can join you Mr. Rix in saying “It’s a great day to be a Rebel!”. For now I cannot join that rallying cry, because those that are the most vulnerable at Richland are not given full access to greatness.