An Atlanta mom gets people talking about why white parents won’t send their kids to black schools

A Huffington Post essay by a mom in a DeKalb community on why other white parents in her neighborhood won’t send their kids to the local school has kicked up a viral dust storm.

No hedIn her piece, Why White Parents Won’t Choose Black Schools,” Abby Norman, herself a teacher in Fulton, writes about wishing her wary neighbors would give the local elementary school a chance, explaining her young daughter Juliet loves her school.

Norman writes: (This is only a short excerpt. Please read the full essay.)

They don’t know that every Tuesday Juliet comes home with a new Spanish song to sing and bothers me until I look up the colors in Spanish if I can’t remember them from high school. Juliet loves her school. Her mother, a teacher at a suburban school, and her father, a PhD candidate at the state university, both find the school completely acceptable, more than acceptable. We love it too.

But my neighbors will not send their kids there and my friends won’t even move into the neighborhood. They will whisper about it. They will tell their friends not to go there. They will even tell a stranger that she should move her kids immediately as they both wait for their children to come down the water slide. But they will not give the neighborhood school a chance. They will even go to great lengths to avoid the neighborhood school.

In July, through the neighborhood list serve I got invited to attend the charter school exploration meeting. A group of parents were attempting to start a charter school to center on diversity…Before starting their own charter school, not one person had bothered even contacting the school already in existence. The school that has made huge strides, and could do even better with some parents who had this kind of time and know how. No one was interested in the school of the neighborhood.

It will be interesting to follow Norman’s essays over the years to see if she hangs in through middle school.

The scenario Norman describes has played out in other gentrifying areas, especially intown and east Atlanta

Many parents are willing to send their kids to the local elementary school but their resolve weakens in middle and high school. Suddenly, there are concerns about fights in the hallways and disruptive students in class.

But some parents remain steadfast, and that commitment can alter a school’s trajectory, as occurred with Mary Lin Elementary 25 years ago, part of the highly regarded Inman Middle and Grady High cluster.

Norman’s piece drew more than a thousand comments, many critical of her position. But one mom wrote:

Oh my gosh, thank you SO much for writing this! Every single solitary place that I have lived has been the same way, and when my neighbors found out my daughter went to the neighborhood public school, they were always horrified and I saw that weird, invisible wall go up between us. I would NEVER send my daughter to a charter or a private school, and today she’s an extremely intelligent woman, studying abroad, getting ready to graduate Middlesex in London. I feel sorry for any parent who honestly thinks they doing their kids a favor by limiting their exposure to ALL their neighbors.

However, this was more typical:

It’s quite simple. What is more important – the idea of cultural diversity or ensuring that your child gets the best education? For nearly all people your own children come before ideology. Before puberty – pretty much all children are great. Come talk to us about how great the school is post puberty.- Someone who worked IT for the mostly segregated schools in the south.

I had a conversation this summer on these exact themes with a parent long committed to sending his child to Maynard Jackson High School, an APS high school with a powerhouse principal working hard to improve the school and entice more families to attend.

The dad told me he loves the dynamic principal and the dedicated teachers, but says too many Jackson students don’t care about academics and get in the way of his son learning.

When my oldest child attended City Schools of Decatur, there was still an exodus of kids at middle school. I asked a neighbor in the know why parents snubbed the middle school.

While kids fared well in the accelerated track, the neighbor said diligent students assigned to general classes complained of too many unruly classmates. Parents who feared their kids would be sidetracked opted for private schools.

A friend who made that decision, enrolling her daughter in a local parochial school, explained that while she believed in neighborhood schools, “I am not going to sacrifice my child for them.”

Schools that have attracted and kept middle-class families have persuaded parents it’s not a sacrifice but a boon to send their kids there.

Read Norman’s column and scan the comments and let’s discuss.

 

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

31 comments
Carolyn Watson Dubisch
Carolyn Watson Dubisch

I want to send my daughter to the local high school, where she would be in the minority. She's begging me to send her to the white school in the next district, but it's filling up it's extra spaces quickly because that's what all the out of district white kids do... They transfer and there's only so many spots. I just don't like her being exposed to so many close minded, rich white kids. I went to a school like that and they represent a very small world view.

Starik
Starik

@Carolyn Watson Dubisch How much of a minority? Segregated schools are inferior by definition, and a school that's 10% white is segregated.

Yaspar
Yaspar

Between the Idea

And the Reality

Falls the Shadow.


TS Elliot

Alec Ryan
Alec Ryan

Parents also want to avoid public schools because of the anti-American, anti-Christian ideology which permeates them: they don't want their kids exposed and brainwashed. Add to that low academic standards, poor discipline and behavior...and the largely correct perception that for all-too-many non-white parents, public school is simply daycare.

BearCasey
BearCasey

@Alec Ryan  As someone who taught, coached and administered in public schools for 25 years, I would postulate that your attic is vacant.  Nothing you say is close to accurate.

Quidocetdiscit
Quidocetdiscit

@Alec Ryan


Anti American, anti-Christian ideology that "permeates" our public schools? 


You don't say... really?  I would ask for examples, but I suspect they would be as far fetched as your entire premise.  



Kris Chringle
Kris Chringle

@BearCasey @Alec Ryan ff  Perhaps I can provide more accurate terminology.  Our schools, Media, and Universities are anti-White.  Anti-Caucasian European.   Anti-Western Values.  And they practice Critical Theory against my people.  perhaps this analogy might be useful to understanding why public schools concern many parents.

Kris Chringle
Kris Chringle

(my comment was directed toward Bearcasey and @Quidocetdiscut   but the comment automatically included the original post.)  

Nikki Gialette
Nikki Gialette

@Quidocetdiscit @Alec Ryan ...and the white settlers kept on coming, pouring onto the sacred lands in every direction, like bleached feces.

 The sight of the desecrated burial ground by the Christian interlopers was what finally broke the proud the spirit of the proud Native American chieftain.

His life partner gently wiped away his tears with a piece of a what was once a blanket that the white man dumped in the center of the camp, disrupting the vegan ceremony of Earth. All this for Wyoming. Evil white racist thieves! 

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Hmmm...
Monday topic: why don't black kids want to go to black colleges?
Wednesday topic: why don't white parents want their kids to go to black elementary schools?

That's really NOT how I roll, but it seems like there's sort of a theme there...

3schoolkids
3schoolkids

While seeming to be an experienced teacher, it is evident she is fairly young in the Mom department. I read the Huff Post article and what she hasn't had enough time to experience is that the parent neighbors she speaks of are everywhere and their opinions don't necessarily have to do with race.


I really wish she would have used her experience to discuss specifically what her children are getting out of their education (besides being in the minority) that people who choose to send their kids to private or charter aren't. This is Atlanta, there is diversity everywhere, even in the burbs. 


Has she spoken to any black parents about why they choose to send their kids to the school rather than a private or charter? What do they say? Does she expect kudos just because she is white?


The whole article lacks substance, it seems she wrote it for hits on her blog, she pats herself on the back for what many parents already do for their kids and their communities. 



Starik
Starik

Read today's "Life With Gracie" column...Gracie is hardly a racist right-winger.  This is why you want to avoid schools where the ghetto/slave culture predominates.  As Original Prof points out, the key is balance.  Schools have a culture, and a culture of inclusion and tolerance is what you want. Not, however, a tolerance of absenteeism, noisy and unruly classrooms, a disdain for learning and criminal activity, particularly gangs. 

ATLPeach
ATLPeach

I'm less concerned with the reason white parents won't send their kids to black schools, and more concerned with the black parents that buy homes in predominantly black communities, then send their kids an hour away from home to go to school. Their refusal to invest in their neighborhood school is the problem. I have family that teaches in North Fulton. I hear some pretty bad stories about those schools as well. Teachers being called the "b" word by yes, white kids. Kids that use profanity, talk back, etc. It's really all over. You can just as easily buy a house in a more diverse neighborhood as you can a predominantly black one. I applaud her for investing in HER neighborhood.

Agatha
Agatha

No, the reason that parents won't send their children to her school is not because it's black. It's because the school is ranked at the very bottom of schools in Georgia. According to School Digger, it performed worse than 99.9% of elementary schools in Georgia, not just DeKalb. Her article was inflammatory and I really take issue with her criticism of the petition for the charter school. I fully supported the EACS because it would have provided another neighborhood school for all children (black, white, asian). The writer's school, in order to improve, needs a critical mass of middle class parents (all colors) to send their children there. That's not going to happen when the school is ranked at the bottom year after year. Instead of addressing the need for middle class children, it was far easier for her to essentially call her neighbors racist. Shame on Ms. Norman.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Agatha Where does the East Atlanta Charter School now stand after the DeKalb school board denial last month? 



Agatha
Agatha

@MaureenDowney The organizers of the East Atlanta Charter School were invited by DCSD to be a "community partner" with the new Clifton school in a recent meeting with the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction . Apparently after the rejection, the DCSD wanted to implement a language immersion program at the Clifton school and needed some ideas regarding curricula, scope and size, where to find teachers, etc, information readily available in the petition if only the board members actually read it! They could have also asked their fellow board member, who represents the region where the EACS would be, for information because he sends his child not to his zoned school but to a language immersion charter school in North DeKalb.



OriginalProf
OriginalProf

There are some good, thoughtful posts here. They seem to testify to the importance of mixture, neither "white schools" nor "black schools" but rather "diversity," or pluralism.

Kris Chringle
Kris Chringle

@OriginalProf usually, people who talk that way send their kids to private Jewish schools.  Preferring not to participate in 'diversity'. 

BCrawford
BCrawford

Pulled my kids from Lithonia High School around 15 years ago.  Being white, they were the minority in the school and put up with a lot of racial taunting and fights.  I feared for my children's safety, so we were able to pay tuition and enroll them in the Decatur School system.  In the Decatur system there was a good mix of races and economic backgrounds.  They have both turned out well and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again. 

bu2
bu2

@BCrawford

Your child has one chance to get an education and a lifetime to experience "diversity."


You want it to be in a school where most of the students value education.  And you want to have other values you believe in respected there.  One concern I have always had with some of the private schools is that the students could be too materialistic.  If you have a HS where the student lot is filled with Lexus's, that's a problem.

bu2
bu2

@BCrawford


I constantly see comments from Black parents interested in a "diverse" school.  However, it turns out that they don't consider a school 35% white, 30% Asian, 30% Hispanic and 5% Black "diverse."  However one that's 80% Black and 20% white would be.   What they are really looking for is a school where their child won't feel out of place by being a tiny minority.  And that's ok.  Parents should make decisions based on what's best for their child's education, not on a social experiment.

redweather
redweather

This is a really tough call, or at least it was for my wife and me. We pulled our son out of Tucker High School during his second semester because too many of the students were not focussed on their school work, and because we feared he was not quite mature enough for such a big school. Instead we sent him to a small, secular private high school that had its own set of pros and cons. But some of our friends sent their children to Tucker and their experience was quite positive for the most part. Like I said, it's a tough call.

Starik
Starik

@redweather As a long time Tucker resident I sent several kids there. At one time it had a diverse and healthy atmosphere. Now it's 10% white, and majority poor, and no longer a "neighborhood school." 

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

So this is a race issue?  I'm not buying it.


Ever buy a house?  Did you look at the other cars in the neighborhood first?

ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

I was one of the parents that was recruited by the "Mary Lin Ambassadors" back in 2002. We bought our first house on the outer edges of Inman Park in 96. The ambassadors came to my door when my first child was still an infant. Mary Lin was a Title I school at that point, and lots of parents in the zone were still opting for private schools. The dedication of the parents and their intricate knowledge of the school is what sold me. 

Maureen's accounting is correct - about 25 years ago a dedicated group of "urban pioneer" parents decided to send their kids to Mary Lin. They locked arms and helped build that school. I was a relative latecomer. 

What if, instead, they had decided to punt and start their own school? (which was not an option at the time). Mary Lin would not be what it is today. 

ProHumanitate
ProHumanitate

And lest anyone fret over the outcomes for those pioneer parents' children, there were many who went on to top colleges after graduating from Grady High School, including Matt Westmoreland, current APS School Board Member.

SoniaFuller
SoniaFuller

I admit that I went through a fluster when it came time for my son to go to our predominantly black neighborhood high school, Maynard Jackson High School, but it wasn't because it was predominantly black. It was because I was concerned that there was not enough parent support for all of the teachers and the kids; it was because I was worried about the socio-economic differences; it was because he was our first and I was scared that we had options -- which most of the kids in our zone don't -- and I wanted to make the best choice for him. Two years later, I think we did. We did not move and abandon the neighborhood that we love, but instead we invested in the school, the kids, and the staff at MJHS. It's been a great decision for our family, and I truly feel that he would not be getting the opportunities elsewhere that he is getting at MJHS. I am disheartened for the dad and his son who feel that many of the kids do not care about their academic life, but I think that is true anywhere. I'm happy that our son is surrounded by kids who want to learn, and push him to learn and work harder.  Kudos to this mom, and to all of the others who decide not to only invest in their kids but all of our kids. 

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

The point is, it is the parent's choice if they choose to send their child to the neighborhood school or not.  Just because the author chooses to perform a politically correct social experiment using her child as the guinea pig does not mean that others are willing to do the same.


TheDeal2
TheDeal2

People want quality schools regardless of color.  If this blog poster's neighborhood school sucked, she wouldn't send her kid there. 

popcornular
popcornular

They love their children very much. 

Parents & taxpayers
Parents & taxpayers

White parents move away from predominantly black neighborhoods for exactly the same reasons black, Asian and Latino parents do: 

To escape crime and dysfunction.


.