March 8, 2013

Two activists criticize Arlington school officials over pencil-shavings incident

Leaders of African-American and Hispanic groups call on the Arlington school board to more severely punish a special education teacher who put pencil shavings into a sleeping student's mouth.

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ARLINGTON -- Two leaders of African-American and Hispanic advocacy groups criticized Arlington school officials Thursday night for their handling of a complaint that a junior high special education teacher poured pencil shavings into a sleeping student's mouth.

The teacher is white, and the student is black. The teacher was placed on leave and was reprimanded.

Because of the Arlington school board's heavy agenda, the Rev. Kyev Tatum, president of the Texas Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Luis Castillo of the Arlington chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens had to wait until almost 11 p.m. to speak for their allotted five minutes each.

"I have grave concerns for what appears to be a culture of silence," Tatum said. "While we are greatly concerned about the act itself, we are just as concerned about the district's response to this act."

He accused administrators of "institutional racism" for not calling in law enforcement to investigate the incident.

Castillo said district officials have a double standard for students and staff.

"Adults should be held to a higher standard," he said. "If students do something serious, they get expelled, but when it comes to staff, there is no 'zero-tolerance' policy."

"What is more serious, the action itself or the silence of the board?" he said.

Castillo added that there should be "a serious discussion of single-member districts" on the Arlington school board. All seven board members are elected at-large.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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