Black History Fun Fact Friday – Georgia’s School-Prison for Black Boys

“Today, students of color in the United States are nearly three times more likely than white children to be labelled cognitively impaired. When Latoya walked into Seth’s first special-education classroom, she said, “I did not see one white child. All I saw was black boys.”

“School,” one student said, “is like prison where I am in the weird class.”

This isn’t really a black history fact. It‘s more like a modern-day fact with roots that go back to the Jim Crow era.

GNETS is short for Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support but support is not a word that I find fitting for this program. Earlier this week, I came across an article, “Georgia’s Separate and Unequal Special Education System,” which detailed how the GNETS program separates children by disability and race. As I read on, it became apparent to me that GNETS is an entirely separate school system in itself, that turns the classroom into a prison for black youth, disproportionately, black boys.

According to Bestcounciling degrees.net, “Psycho-education is a form of education that is specifically offered to individuals who are suffering from any one of several distinct mental health conditions impairing their ability to lead their lives. The ideal aim of the psychoeducational approach is to give both the individuals who suffer from psychological conditions and their families a stronger base of knowledge for knowing on ways to cope and thrive in spite of the condition.” These programs exist by way of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA.

IDEA was introduced in 1975 and first came into being on October 30, 1990, when the “Education of All Handicapped Children Act” was renamed “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. According to Beth Ferri, a disability scholar at Syracuse University, IDEA provided a kind of loophole to the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed racial segregation in schools. “Before the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was enacted in 1975, U.S. public schools accommodated only 1 out of 5 children with disabilities. Until that time, many states had laws that explicitly excluded children with certain types of disabilities from attending public school, including children who were blind, deaf, and children labeled “emotionally disturbed” or “mentally retarded.” (Wikipedia)

IDEA sounds nice, but it became a double-edged sword. While it may have tackled the issue of allowing children with disabilities to be integrated into the public school system, it was also a subtle response to Brown vs. Board of Education. Schools that did not want to integrate could do so by re-labeling blacks disabled and pushing them out. Now racial segregation continued “under the guise of ‘disability.” Disabled, poverty-stricken, and feeble-minded are just a few code words used throughout history in the America‘s that were often references to African Americans. Instead of blatant racism or racial epithets, people could just say things like “ghetto,” or “inner-city,” when referring to black people.

GNETS
Photo by LaToya Ruby Frazier for the New Yorker

“Data obtained through records requests reveal that the percentage of students in the GNETS program who are black boys is double that of the public schools in the state. Most of the students in GNETS are classified as having an “emotional and behavioral disorder,” a vague label that does not correspond to any particular medical diagnosis. A teacher who worked for five years at a GNETS program called Coastal Academy, in Brunswick, told me, “We always had a sprinkling of middle-class white kids, maybe two or three, but they didn’t stay long. Everyone made sure they got out. It was the black students who were trapped there. They came in first grade and never left.”

An investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that Georgia’s public schools assign a vastly disproportionate number of African American students to psychoeducational programs, segregating them not just by disability but also by race. In such instances, disability has become synonymous with race. Black children in these programs are restrained using dog leashes, experimented on, and locked in rooms like prisons, with bars over the windows. In one such room, a 14-year-old boy hanged himself.

At a school in Cordele, students with behavioral disorders must use segregated restrooms. They have separate lunch periods. They have to enter through a special door and, unlike their peers without disabilities, pass through a metal detector.” In Rome, students in the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support program aren’t allowed to engage with other students – or even leave the basement.”

“As a black kid, you keep getting in trouble,” said Craig Goodmark, a lawyer with Atlanta Legal Aid who represents families of disabled children. “You get in trouble, there are no mental health services. The only mental health services are in the GNETS. That sort of combines to create a reality.”

Seven-year-old David got into trouble as soon as his mother enrolled him in school after moving to Cobb County last spring. He received out-of-school suspensions for 10 of his first 17 days, then was suspended another nine days in the first two weeks of the fall semester. His offenses, according to school documents, included “physical violence without harm,” “class disruption” and “insubordination.”

“Basically,” his mother said, “he was set up for failure.”

“The longest restraint lasted 15 minutes, after David screamed, threw items at other students, toppled desks and slapped at teachers. To keep David from biting him, a school report said, a teacher pushed his fist into the child’s mouth and held it there for several minutes. David told Tonyi he gagged and almost vomited. The school district later said the teacher appropriately controlled David’s “disruptive and assaultive behavior.”

Through such programs as GNETS, Georgia illegally segregates thousands of students with behavioral or psychiatric disorders, often in schools that are dirty, in poor repair and, in some cases, served as blacks-only facilities before court-ordered integration, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

Fifty-four percent of students in Georgia’s psycho-educational programs are African American, compared to 37 percent in all public schools statewide, the Journal-Constitution found. In half of the 24 programs, black enrollment exceeds 60 percent. In one, nine of every 10 students are African American.

Sources:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/10/01/georgias-separate-and-unequal-special-education-system

http://specials.myajc.com/psychoeducation/

https://www.ajc.com/news/local/georgia-illegally-segregates-disabled-students-federal-inquiry-finds/Wof1iqxxvvdJv2cyowCs3O/

https://www.ajc.com/news/local/death-highlights-lack-regulation-georgia-psychoeducational-schools/vUhQ7un2Yxy7kiXGqkSBdN/


Be sure to check out other Black History Facts by visiting the Black History Fun Fact Friday page!

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Yecheilyah on The Source, WURD Radio, 8/24, @onWURD #onWURD

This week, Black History Fun Fact Friday is going live!

Join me and host Stephanie Renee on The Source, WURD Radio this Friday, August 24th @ 10:25a EST. I’ll be discussing my Black History Fun Fact Friday article series (which is returning soon with some new fun facts, find previous articles right here on the blog. Click here) and the Legacy of Dunbar, the first Black Public High School in the United States. The Source airs on WURD Radio, 96.1FM and 900AM in Philadelphia or online at http://www.WURDRadio.com. You can also download the free app @ WURD Radio. Chat soon! @onWURD #onWURD #Onward #EachOneTeachOne #educhat

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Lucy Craft Laney

Welcome back to Black History Fun Fact Friday. Today, we learn about Lucy Craft Laney.

Lucy Craft Laney was a famous educator in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She opened her own school in 1883, which became known as Haines Normal and Industrial Institute in Augusta, Georgia where she served as teacher and principle for 50 years.

Laney was born on April 13, 1854, one of ten children, to Louisa and David Laney. Laney was not enslaved as David Laney purchased his freedom twenty years before Laney’s birth and then purchased his wife’s freedom sometime after their marriage. Laney was taught to read by her mother at the early age of four. By 12 Laney could translate passages in Latin. She attended Lewis (later Ballard) High School in Macon, GA which was sponsored by the American Missionary Association.

Laney prepared to be a teacher at Atlanta University in 1889 (later Clark Atlanta University), graduating from the Normal Department (teacher’s training) in 1873.

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Sewing class at Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, Augusta, Georgia

Laney’s school started out small with just a handful of students. She began her school in 1883 in Augusta. Her school was chartered by the state three years later and named the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute. Originally, Laney intended to admit only girls, but several boys appeared and she could not turn them away. By the end of the second year, there were more than 200 Black students enrolled in Laney’s school.

Over the years, Laney made many improvements and additions to the school. In the 1890s, the school was one of the first to offer kindergarten classes for African-American children in the South. She also opened a training center so that black women could train as nurses. The school’s curriculum provided the students with traditional liberal arts courses as well as vocational programs, which was groundbreaking at the time, but that’s not all. Laney’s school also acted as a cultural center for the Black community, hosting lectures by nationally famous guests, and various social events.

Are you attending the #IndieAuthorFringe event? 18th March #writers #authors

YO! AUTHORS! Check it out. This is what I mean by attending FREE online webinars and conferences to aid in your education when you cannot afford to pay for a live one. This is a FREE, online global conference for authors, run fringe to the major book fairs: London, BEA & Frankfurt Bookfairs, broadcasting 24 sessions of author education over 24 continuous hours, so that authors around the world attend some live sessions, no matter where they’re located.

deborahjay

Have you heard about the Indie Author Fringe, organized by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)?
This is a FREE, online global conference for authors, run fringe to the major book fairs: London, BEA & Frankfurt Bookfairs, broadcasting 24 sessions of author education over 24 continuous hours, so that authors around the world attend some live sessions, no matter where they’re located. There are also competitions, giveaways and discounts, contributed by sponsors.
The folks at ALLi have pulled together some of the top advisors on the indie author scene to bring you the most up-to-date self-publishing education and information available. Here’s the link to the Indie Author Fringe Speaker Page where you can see the speakers and topics lined up for the March 18th event, fringe to the London Book Fair.
ALLi’s commitment to excellence and inclusiveness has set the stage for one of the most significant global online gathering of authors and author-services…

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Why I Read

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Because I can create peace in my mind

Even if the world is not all that peaceful

Because people write their truths

And when the heart is contextualized

hidden gems are found

waiting to be resurrected

and valued

I read because reading is valuable

And because books are the only place

where you can learn for free

I read because books are the only schools

I can carry with me

I read to learn from people

who came before me

I read to hear voices

through words

written down

to understand others

to listen to hearts

I read to find the person between the lines.

I read because not everyone can.

Let’s Talk Education

That’s right, Rachel is giving me the keys to the house (I hope she has coffee??!). My topic of discussion is on the education of blacks in America and how reading and literature came to be such an important part of the learning process in the transition from slavery to freedom.

When: Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Where: Rachel Poli’s Blog @ http://www.rachelpoli.com

Reminder: You can find all my Guest Blog posts and upcoming features under the Media Page!

>> https://thepbsblog.com/author-interviews-guest-blog-posts/ <<

Black History Fun Fact Friday – The First Black Public High School

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In 1870, the first Black public High School opened in Washington, D.C. or rather, the first recorded school (Aside from Tuskegee Institute–one of the first schools for African Americans financially sponsored by Blacks and Whites but headed by a Black President, the late Booker T. Washington–I do not believe Dunbar was the first High School just as Rosa Parks was not the first to refuse to give up her seat on a bus (LEARN MORE HERE) there is a lot of things that just aren’t recorded.)

The Preparatory High School for Colored Youth (renamed in 1916 to M Street Public School when its location was changed from M Street), was founded in the basement of Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church by William Syphak, the first chair of the Board of Trustees of the Colored Public Schools in the District of Columbia. According to Dr. Thomas Sowell in an article (100 Years After Dunbar) in 1899, when it was called “the M Street School,” a test was given in Washington’s four academic public high schools, three white and one Black. The Black High School scored higher than two of the three white High Schools. Of course, this isn’t about color or race but is used as an example to highlight the success of all Black Schooling at that time.

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Blacks during Segregation were more unified considering many of us had to stick together in order to build communities and schools. For this reason, many all-Black communities, as well as all Black schools, did well. There was a communal spirit among blacks during segregation that sadly deteriorated once we were capable of going outside of ourselves.

Before Brown vs. Board of Education, Dunbar acquired only the best teachers, many of them with Ph.Ds. and graduated 80% of its students. Among its students: the architect of school desegregation, Charles Hamilton Houston, Elizabeth Catlett, the artist, Billy Taylor, the jazz musician, the first Black general in the Army, the first Black graduate of the Naval Academy, and the first Black presidential Cabinet member, according to Journalist Alison Stewart, author of First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School as told to NPR host Cornish on All Things Considered.

In addition, many more, including the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. from an American institution, the first Black federal judge, and a doctor who became internationally renowned for his pioneering work in developing the use of blood plasma.

The Downfall of Dunbar

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Source: Courtesy of Chicago Review Press

Unfortunately, like many Black experiences after integration, Dunbar declined. According to Sowell, senior at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University:

“For Washington, the end of racial segregation led to a political compromise, in which all schools became neighborhood schools. Dunbar, which had been accepting outstanding Black students from anywhere in the city, could now accept only students from the rough ghetto neighborhood in which it was located. Virtually overnight, Dunbar became a typical ghetto school. As unmotivated, unruly and disruptive students flooded in, Dunbar teachers began moving out and many retired. More than 80 years of academic excellence simply vanished into thin air.”

I agree with Sowell only to an extent. I do not think that “unruly and disruptive ghetto students” are responsible for the downfall of Dunbar, but rather the decline in Blacks students being taught by Black teachers concerning Black lives and Black history.

I remember a video interview Maya Angelou gave where she testified that her school was “grand” and many others of the era who described their schooling as a positive experience. Though not given the same quality of learning materials, I believe Blacks got a better education before integration. Not merely because of segregation itself, but rather because it forced us to unify in a way that does not exist today.

In short, we were educating our own. Without teachers and faculty who actually understand them, their struggles and experiences, students can find it harder to adjust. In Angelou’s words, “blacks used what the West Africans in Senegal called ‘Sweet Language'” which is still used today. For example:

“Hey, there” is used as opposed to, “Hi, how are you?”

The Hey is drawn out and spoken with a certain tone of familiarity as sweet language is dependent entirely on tone. The way that Angelou spoke herself was in a sort of sweet language where every word, even if she didn’t mean it to, sounded like poetry.

“Hey, how you?”

This is not grammatically correct or what may be referred to as “proper” and it’s not meant to be. It is the lengthening of the word, the dragging it out and using a loving tone of voice, a caring voice: “Hey.” It is something that Blacks have been doing their entire lives without effort and is something that is mostly understood by other Blacks and while deemed sweet language, I call it a language of love.

This is just one example of the kind of History Israelite, so-called Black, children do not learn in today’s schools.

As the Black teachers moved on, so did Black students interest in learning, or so it seems. Over time, at least three more schools would be named after Dunbar: Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland, Fort Worth, Texas, and Chicago, IL.

While segregation allowed for inferior educational experiences in some respect (such as torn and used books as opposed to new ones) who is to say that the education itself was inferior? I am more interested in what was being taught behind closed doors. The historical, archaeological, and biblical history of Blacks that I am sure to have never made it in the history books. What really made these students prosper as opposed to the students today?

Dunbar now graduates only 55% of its students according to the 2016 values based on student performance on state exit exams and internationally available exams on college-level coursework, and AP®/IB exams are unranked in the National Rankings. But what do we expect? How do we expect the people who oppress us to also teach us the truth about who we are? If you weren’t being treated right, how do you think that you were taught right?

One thing is for certain, to assume that integration made education for Blacks better is up for debate.