Schools' gifted program is accused of discriminating against black students
A former University City School District board member accuses the district of racism in a complaint he filed last month with the U.S. Department of Education.
Walter A. Daniels Jr. said in the complaint that the district's gifted programs discriminate against black students.
"We've got a district where the vast majority of the students are black and only 25 black kids are in the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program," Daniels said Tuesday. "That says to me that black children in the district are getting a very poor education."
Daniels, 59, a self-described activist, filed the complaint last month. He was a member of the School Board in the early 1980s. He has a daughter, Kea Daniels, who teaches at Pershing Elementary School in the district.
Total enrollment in the district is 3,608 students; 3,099 of them are black.
District spokeswoman Daphne Dorsey disputed Daniels' figures, which he said he got from the superintendent's office. Dorsey said 49 of the 159 students in the GATE program are black.
"We make every effort to provide a quality education for all children in the district," Dorsey said. "We do not discriminate based on race."
The U.S. Department of Education did not return calls for comment.
Daniels gave the news media a copy of a letter that the department sent to him in reply to his complaint. In the reply, the department acknowledged receipt of the complaint, which it said it would handle "consistent with our complaint procedures."
Dorsey said the district had been contacted by the Education Department.
"They sent us a letter notifying us that they had gotten a complaint from him (Daniels)," Dorsey said. "That's basically the extent of it so far."
Not every school district has a gifted program, and those that do are not required to report the racial composition to the state.
In two local districts that do operate such programs — Maplewood-Richmond Heights and Ritenour — few blacks are involved.
Of the 33 students in the gifted program in Maplewood-Richmond Heights, only two, or about 6 percent, are black. Blacks make up 38 percent of the enrollment in that district.
In Ritenour, blacks account for about 13 percent of students in the gifted program — 27 of 210. Blacks account for 35 percent of Ritenour's total enrollment.
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