There are numerous examples of when “keeping it real” goes wrong and one of the latest is a pledge created by staff at a Seattle high school that has pissed off students and parents alike.
Called the “Keepin’ it 100” covenant, the agreement essentially asked African-American students at Franklin High to pledge they would do better. I.e. they would be on time for school, complete high school, and hold themselves to meet high expectations (because apparently black students are the only ones who have problems doing such things). As should have been expected, that covenant did not go over well with students.
“We were upset because the whole 12th grade class got the paper but it was supposed to be for us,” senior Bazia Potts told Q13 Fox. “I know I felt embarrassed and my peers felt embarrassed as well.”
As a result, the effort completely backfired with some students refusing to sign the racially targeted pledge.
“They threw it in the garbage,” Potts said. “They were angry; they threw it away.”
Junior Niya Thomas was offended as well, telling the local news station, “Every student counts in the school, I feel like if you gave [a pledge] to one culture, you should have given it to the others as well.”
Her mother, Neffertiti Thomas, agreed. “I don’t think [students] read that letter feeling encouraged, uplifted at all. They walked away feeling like I can’t do enough, I still didn’t make it.
“It felt like these African-American students weren’t good enough, that they didn’t somehow make the mark, that part was hurtful because we all want to send a positive message to our students.”
As a result of the negative response, Seattle Public Schools issued a statement on the pledge, saying:
“Seattle Public Schools is committed to eliminating opportunity gaps and accelerating learning for each and every student.
“A student covenant was recently created by staff at Franklin High School. After meeting with senior students, Franklin staff discontinued the covenant as it proved to be a distraction from their original intent which is to increase efforts and support for African American students and ensure college readiness.
“In addition, a parent/community advisory group is under development to increase the school’s collective wisdom, inform their practices and build capacity to reach the goal of 100% of African American students college ready.”
How about starting from a place of assistance rather than making assumptions about accountability? School staff should be asking African American students why they don’t make it to school on time, examining what barriers keep African American students from graduating, and tasking all students to meet high expectations. Singling an entire race of students out as subpar is demeaning. More than anyone, school administrators should understand the factors that contribute to some African American students’ academic struggles and give them tools to overcome them, rather than embarrass them.