Arlington school trustee calls racism talk 'ludicrous'

Posted Friday, Mar. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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An Arlington school board member fired back Friday at the Rev. Kyev Tatum of Fort Worth for remarks that Tatum made late in Thursday's board meeting.

Trustees cannot respond to speakers during open-forum sessions.

Tatum, head of the Texas Southern Christian Leadership Conference, criticized the way district officials handled an incident in January at Boles Junior High School in which a special-education teacher poured pencil shavings into a sleeping student's mouth.

The teacher is white, the student black. Administrators should have called police, Tatum said, accusing the district of "institutional racism."

Trustee Tony Pompa responded Friday.

"To say that we have institutional racism at AISD is completely ludicrous," Pompa said. "We have a very diverse administration, a very diverse board, pretty much the leadership throughout the whole organization.

"If there was institutional racism, with [Superintendent Marcelo] Cavazos there, that isn't going to happen."

Pompa also said Tatum's account of the incident was "exaggerated."

Trustees are limited in what they can say in public about school personnel or students. "It's very frustrating to not be able to tell people what's going on," Pompa said. "But the facts will come out if we have a hearing."

Luis Castillo of the League of United Latin American Citizens also spoke to the board Thursday.

He said the district has a double standard: Students are punished more harshly than teachers. "Adults should be held to a higher standard," Castillo said.

In other action late Thursday, trustees:

Approved the Bring Your Own Technology plan, which will permit students to use their own mobile devices at school to do their lessons.

Campus administrators have discretion over whether and when to implement the program. For those who start immediately, letters and guidelines will be sent to parents March 18, and information will be posted online.

When signed releases from parents are returned, students can begin training by March 25 and bring their own devices by March 29.

Approved staffing ratios for the 2013-14 school year.

Administrators recommended 22 students to one teacher for pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, 26-to-1 for fifth grade and 30-to-1 for sixth grade. Junior high ratios are 23-to-1, and high school classes are 27-to-1.

Earlier in the meeting, the board approved a motion to initiate the establishment of a self-contained Early College High School at Tarrant County College Southeast. Students could earn up to 60 college credits by the time they graduate from high school.

Trustees also approved a restructuring plan for Nichols Junior High School, which has missed federal Adequate Yearly Progress standards for five of six years.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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