High school divides students by race
With schools under increasing pressure to improve test scores, Mt. Diablo High School has resorted to a new way to motivate students: by race.
The Concord campus on Friday held separate assemblies for students of different ethnicities to talk about last year's test results and the upcoming slew of state exams this spring.
Jazz music and pictures of Martin Luther King greeted African-American students, while Filipino, Asian and Pacific Islander students saw flags of their foreign homelands on the walls. Latinos and white students each attended their own events, too, complete with statistics showing results for all ethnicities and grade level.
"They started off by saying jokingly, 'What up, white people,'" said freshman Megan Wiley, 14. Teachers flashed last year's test scores and told the white crowd of students to do better for the sake of their people.
"They got into, 'you should be proud of your race,'" Wiley said. "It was just weird."
Several parents later told MediaNews that the meetings smacked of segregation resurrected.
"Why did they have to divide the students by race?" said Filipino parent Claddy Dennis, mother of freshman Schenlly Dennis. "In this country, everybody is supposed to be treated equally. It sounds like racism to me."
Principal Bev Hansen said she held the student assemblies by ethnicity to avoid one group harassing another based on their test scores. The 1,600-student campus, one of the most ethnically diverse high schools in the Mt. Diablo school district, is roughly half Hispanic, 30 percent white and 15 percent black, with Asian nationalities rounding out the mix.
Last year, the school improved its academic performance index score, largely based on test scores, to 613 out of 1,000. Among the races, Asians scored highest. Whites earned a 667. African Americans scored a 580, while Hispanics earned a 571.
"I don't want students being teased," Hansen said.
Ultimately, however, Hansen said she did not know why parents seemed so concerned. The state has reported scores based on race for years. The school assemblies simply reflected those same categories in reporting the numbers to students, she said.
"In this country, race is a very uncomfortable topic and it's time we got over it," Hansen said.