The principal of Homewood Flossmoor High School located in the South Suburbs of Chicago is currently under scrutiny for a letter sent home with students claiming they are in gangs or have been associated with gang activity.
A letter was sent home with about 70 students after an e-mail was sent to their parents saying “Your child,______, has directly or through association been involved in what is considered ‘gang activity’. The letter penned by principal Jerry Lee Anderson required parents to come to a series of different mandatory meetings on Saturday morning to address the accusations. If they did not show their children would be “excluded” from the school.
In a statement made to the Chicago Sun-Times Dr. Lee Anderson said “We have some who believe that violence is not part of what happens in the suburbs, that we are somehow immune. We are not. We need informed, empowered parents to be part of the solution.”
As one of the father’s who received one of these letters with regards to his children it is important for me to speak to the insensitive and incendiary way this message was delivered.
Living as a Black man in America it is understood at an early age that you are targeted and under attack. It could be in the form of micro aggressions, as blatant as the public school to prison pipeline or as irresponsible as calling the police on Black men sitting in a coffee shop. The attacks are real and measurable.
According to the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet nationwide African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court.
These numbers are problematic. African Americans make up 32% of the United States population and 56% of the prison population IN 2015 according to the NAACP fact sheet.
There is already a well oiled engine working against our children in this world and to selectively single out any child of color without definitive proof of anything and basing a list on pictures and visits to the Dean is irresponsible and dangerous. Threatening to “ “exclude” a Black child from his or her education because of speculation in itself is criminal and resembles an aid an assist to a system that is already stacked against our children.
I understand that there have been isolated incidents with former students of the school that have raised the level of awareness and that it is your duty as an educator to ensure the safety of the children you are entrusted to provide a quality education to. However; to single out any group of students in this manner is essentially adding a log to the fire of
intolerance and racism that is consistently burning out of control and tends to burn Black children the most.
Many of the parents who are currently living in this suburb are not naive to violence in any shape or form. It is for this reason that they have sacrificed and scraped to create a better life for their children. Violence can happen anywhere, no one is immune to it. When it does happen the community should be addressed and solutions should be shared.
The letter that was sent home with those students was most likely intended to nip a problem in the bud, but what you have done is make the bullseye bigger on the backs of these specific children.
An apology is in order for each one of the students and parents who received this letter. The student body should be addressed as a whole when it comes to any issues have to do with the gang violence and how the school views it.
Lastly, I understand that you are the mother of a young Black man. I’m a very sure you are aware of what it means to be a young Black man in this world. It is for this reason that I ask that whenever you decide to make a decision similar to the one you have made with regards to this issue to take into account how you would feel about how your child would be viewed or treated if someone singled him out in the manner that you did with our children.
Here’s the letter that was sent:
Dear Parent/Guardian of ___ ,
Your child, ___ , has either directly or through association been involved in what is considered “gang activity”. Because I am concerned about your child’s safety and the well being of all of the students and staff at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, I am requesting that you and your child attend a mandatory meeting on Saturday, October 20, 2018 in Room 101 in the North Building at 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. At the parent/student meeting, you will receive more specific information about your child’s involvement.Failure to attend this meeting will cause your child to be excluded from Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
Information has been gathered through Deans’ investigations of conflicts that have occurred in and out of school over the last few months that have negatively impacted the environment and safety of our students and staff.
As a concerned parent/guardian, you need to be aware of what we have observed that could potentially endanger your child and your family. Your child’s success at Homewood-Flossmoor High School is important. I hope by meeting with parents/guardians and students, we can come to a resolution that will support the success of your student and ensure the safety of everyone.
Dr. Jerry Lee Anderson
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