School & District Management

Racial Term Draws Offense in Florida District

By Sean Cavanagh — September 02, 2009 1 min read

Parents and students in Broward County, Fla., were angered when a district form, sent out to collect information on race and ethnicity, included the term “negro” as a descriptor for African-Americans.

Officials in the big South Florida district sent out a revised form last week, but it wasn’t enough to quell the outrage. One student organized a petition drive, according to a story in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The article says the loaded term was put in a student code of conduct book, which also listed “black,” and “African-American” as acceptable descriptions.

What’s interesting is the district’s explanation for the mishap. The district says it was collecting racial data using new categories provided by Florida’s state department of education. The state, in turn, says that it was using guidance for the racial descriptions provided by the federal Office of Management and Budget. It could be that the district and state were collecting this data as part of a complex, and much-debated new set of federal guidelines, aimed at bringing more precision to counts of race/ethnicity, particularly when it comes to multiracial students. But unless I’m missing something here, that doesn’t really explain the use of the outdated term.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.