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.

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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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Learning Disabled: A Manmade Disease

One of the duties I perform almost daily, about 2-3 times a week (it used to be 5), is that I provide tutorial services to children, primarily in the area of literacy—reading, writing, and vocabulary. I have also Home Schooled children for three years prior to my tutorial services, who ranged anywhere from Kindergarten to 6th grade. Needless to say, I rather enjoy teaching children; it involves my two most favorite things: teaching and children (obviously). We even do a Lecture presentation on the Dumbing Down of the Educational System, primarily its relation to black youth. We’ve presented in Kentucky, Chicago (my home town…south side! < in my Chicago voice, if you ain’t from the Chi don’t worry, you won’t get the joke), Baltimore, and Houston to name a few. In my experience, I’ve learned so much about how children learn and some of the valuable methods needed to assist them in this endeavor. I still don’t consider myself an expert, but what I’ve come to research and to understand by way of hands on face to face experience has taught me a lot. And today I would like to speak briefly on learning disabilities because there is simply no such thing.

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Certainly, there are indeed children who have a much more difficult time reading and writing than others. As early as 1867, a German teacher of the deaf founded a school for slow learning children. Accordingly, these children’s memories were too weak to remember letters and due the poor motor coordination of their fingers they had difficulty learning how to write. So the teacher understood he must implement remedial reading methods. This did not mean however, that these children were mentally retarded. The moral of the story is that problems with learning have always been around, the question is, when did the idea of a “neurological dysfunction” called herein Learning Disabled, become the term to which we apply to children who learn at a slower pace than others? And does a Learning Disability actually have anything to do with how they learn in the first place?

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A disease is an illness caused by a virus that has attacked the immune system, and on April 6, 1963, a new disease was implemented in Chicago that had its roots in the south, that would very soon be given to millions of black schoolchildren before ballooning into a worldwide epidemic. It was said to have been hidden deep inside the neurological system according to psychologist. What we didn’t know however, was these were the same psychologist who had been studying the brain and central nervous system in search for man’s soul since the time of Wilhelm Wundt, founder of experimental psychology back in the 18th century. Wundt believed that man didn’t have a soul living inside of him, and as such he was no different than an animal whose actions are almost always reactions. That is, man’s behavior is only determined by his surroundings and can thus be altered by way of stimulus-response; provide the right stimuli, get the right response. In short, he can be programmed like an animal in a laboratory. So, fast forward to the 1960’s when scientist and psychologist began to back the promotion of one of the most deadly diseases now plaguing not just the so called African American community, but communities in general. The United States Government would spend billions of dollars on this new affliction over the next 20 years.

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In 1963,  nine years after the Brown vs. Board of Education verdict of 1954, that stated that racial segregation of children in public schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (FYI, the decision did not fully desegregate public education in the United States, though galvanizing the Civil Rights Movement), The Learning Disabled Movement began taking root. The beliefs that people were a result of their environment had long since upheld the belief that wealthy children of well-to-do neighborhoods would flourish academically, while poor children of impoverished neighborhoods would not. Of course, we have to keep in mind that this was during the Civil Rights Era and that (even until this day) there are certain code words that are often used to represent a certain group of people so that the declarations remain politically correct, and are not cause for concern. What was meant by this is simply that rich white kids in the suburbs would do better than poor black kids in the ghettos academically. However, in the 1960s, parents of white children saw a drop in their children’s IQ’s and academic success. They saw that their children too, were not performing very well. And since psychologist had long since experimented with the brain and nervous system enough to provide the statistical data to “prove it”, these parents formed The Learning Disabilities Movement, in which there was allegedly a mental disorder associated with their children’s lack of academic success:

“For many of the parents of these children, accustomed as they were to success and acclimated to a pain-free educational scheme, these results seemed fluky. Since they felt themselves entitled to success, failure was an obvious aberration {oddness}. Educators faced a similar problem: They could not blame the low test scores on racism and poverty or even the lack of funding. Students from the most lavishly appointed schools in the nation were failing to make the grade. The impetus for change came from parents first. They could have blamed “systematic social influences on the schools” for the failures, or they could have blamed principals and teachers for ineptly handling neurologically normal children. Or they might have decided that their children were “slow learners, ecologically disabled, or just bored to death by school.” Instead, they gravitated toward the idea that their children suffered from learning disabilities.” – Charles Sykes, Dumbing Down Our Kids, pg. 189-190

There was, of course, no such thing as a learning disability, but the “professionals” sure did clear that up. Put together a hodgepodge of numbers and graphs and people would believe anything. And they did. “Learning Disabilities” appealed to many parents and helped to jump-start the birth of a nation. But this program would soon become something much greater. After Brown vs. Board of Education, this program would become the savior of separate but unequal. This is when we come back to Samuel Kirk, the Chicago Psychologist.

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In that same year, 1963, Kirk created The Learning Disability, except the LD movement had already begun in the south between white parents and the “professionals” who backed them. This Learning Disability he would create however, would flip the script: it would no longer be used as an excuse for prominent white parents; it would become a tool against black children. Now black children (especially black boys), can be separated from white children and it was not against the law. The Gifted program took off around this same time, the 1960s. It was a program to which school children’s IQ’s would be tested to separate those who were highly intelligent from those who were not. The concept of IQ (Intelligence Quotient), which is used in the “diagnosing” of Special Education (a Federal Program), was started by Eugenicist (Eugenics is the belief and practice of improving the genetic quality of the human population by killing off those “less desirable”, such as African Americans, as a form of birth control) from The American Eugenicist Society for the purpose of population extermination. Since students could no longer be judged by the colors of their skin, they were now judged by numbers and test scores. It wasn’t until after the Brown vs. Board of Education Verdict of 1954 that the “Gifted” program even took off because it was another way to keep the “races” separate without breaking the law.

 

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Now ALL children across ethnicity’s are infected with the disease of “Learning Disabled”. They have to walk around with the stigma that they are mentally sick for the rest of their lives although there is nothing to prove it. When you say you want your child tested, what does that mean? The test does not tell you whether or not your child has a learning disability. Tests produce numbers; it is not a diagnoses. It’s your signature on a piece of paper that gives the school psychologist permission to tell you what they think, and to make hypothesis or “Educated Guesses” on whether or not he or she thinks the child is reading disabled.

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What parents need to understand, is that there is no “study” that can determine or prove that someone is something called “Learning Disabled” because there’s no such thing. No physical symptoms, no known neurological deficits, no genetic traits, no consistent clinical descriptions, no diagnostic testing, no techniques of treatment based on actual real, factual evidence outside of medications intentionally designed to slow energized and happy kids down and make them depressed eight year olds…. there is absolutely nothing that proves a child has a mental disorder associated with learning. We’re not talking children who are slow learners and need that extra help,  or children who simply have trouble reading and writing, we’re talking about a medical deformity, a neurological retardation of the child’s ability to understand called Learning Disabled, it does not exist. When the teachers come to you with that question about testing your child, especially your boys, start asking questions and demanding results. And finally,  stop signing every piece of paper children bring home from school.