Race-Based Rallies

By Liana Loewus — April 24, 2009 1 min read
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In an attempt to motivate students for standardized testing, administrators at Laguna Creek High School in Sacramento, Calif. held racially segregated pep rallies, reports the Sacramento Bee.

The “Heritage Assemblies” were designed to aid teachers in talking about test scores, which are measured in racial subsets, without making any one group feel singled out. Students could attend any of the five rallies but the rooms were allocated by race: African Americans in the gym, Latinos in the multipurpose room, Pacific Islanders in the theater, and so on.

“Is it racist? I don’t believe it is,” said Laguna Creek principal Doug Craig.

However, the school-wide segregation was troubling for many parents and students. Tracy and Herbert Houston, a mixed-race couple, were angry that their child was asked to choose. “My son texted me and asked me which one to go to. He didn’t know where to go because I’ve never raised him to be black or white. …I tell my children they are part of the human race.”

Laguna Creek 9th grader Kevion Claiborne said, “We should all go together. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, or any race.”

Race-based assemblies are becoming more common in California schools, according to Sharroky Hollie, a professor of teacher education at California State University, Dominguez Hills. “I think schools are trying really hard, but not having success,” Hollie said. "...they are not addressing the students’ culture instructionally, instead waiting until two weeks before the test and doing heritage rallies.”

Update 4/28/09: California educator Anthony Cody, in reaction to this story, warns of “stereotype threat.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.