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Stop Playing Racial Politics with Our Kids

At Success Academy Harlem West Middle School, where I am principal, we believe in teaching our scholars to be self-advocates, to respectfully but forcefully stand up for what is right and fair. That’s why it was so important for me and my fellow principals and other Success Academy leaders and parents to respond to false claims by the Alliance for Quality Education and other union-backed agitators last week, at a press conference on the steps of City Hall. Play the video here.

Success Academy has come under a coordinated attack by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Billy Easton of AQE, Hazel Dukes of the New York NAACP, and Bertha Lewis of The Black Institute. In a sensational and cynical attempt to link a South Carolina police officer’s assault on a high school student to Success Academy’s discipline policy, they show themselves to be both absurd and desperate, but also deeply insulting to the scholars, families, and teachers who go to extraordinary lengths to provide a world-class education in communities where access to one has been denied for generations.

To suggest, as Randi Weingarten did, that a discipline policy that reinforces proper behavior—in a network of schools that delivers exceptional academic outcomes for children—creates anything but a pathway to college and prosperity, was morally bankrupt. We are, however, generally dismissive of the musings of Randi Weingarten. After all, she is responsible for giving birth to the UFT charter school in 2005, a union-run school closed after a decade of low performance, high principal and teacher turnover, and poor management of finances, and where a crackdown on discipline led to approximately 10 allegations of corporal punishment.

But it begged the question: Where were Hazel Dukes and Bertha Lewis as the UFT charter school failed to educate black and brown children for a full decade?

Instead of calling upon the governor to begin an investigation into Success Academy, people need to examine the unholy alliance the NAACP has with the UFT.

None of this makes any sense. The NAACP—the largest civil rights organization in the history of this country, and the one organization in the United States expressly designed for the advancement of colored people—has chosen to play racial politics with our children. The NAACP is doing the union’s bidding and not looking out for the children and families, most of them are of color, who are benefiting from Success Academy’s schools.

This is a miserable failure of black leadership and an affront to all those who struggled before us. Where are all the black and brown politicians? Where is the outrage? Success Academy serves 11,000 scholars across your communities. How can you allow foolishness to be said without making a statement supporting the only schools in your neighborhoods that are among the highest-performing schools in the State of New York?

These are the schools that I, and hundreds of other educators, built. As the first dean of students in our network and now a principal, I deeply believe in the importance of our discipline policies. Our code of conduct keeps our children emotionally, physically, and academically safe. Without it, Success Academy children would be exposed to the chaotic environments that define New York City public schools and low-performing schools throughout the country.

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Click here to watch the video.

I invite you to view the video above, and hear Success Academy’s leaders and parents share their outrage against these unwarranted attacks and express their commitment to delivering an excellent education for all children in New York City.

Written by Khari Shabazz November 19, 2015

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