The Herald has carried respectable reports about the problems of racial tensions in our public schools, and how schools are responding to growing racial and ethnic diversity and tension. Since 2001, the Monroe School District and its superintendent, Dr. Bill Prenevost, have moved aggressively to accommodate the needs of the multi-racial and multi-lingual student population they serve. I applaud the work of Dr. Prenevost and the Monroe schools to address the rapid ethnic and racial changes in the Monroe community.
Public schools carry a major responsibility to teach students how to live in our increasingly diverse county and nation. Public schools must also exercise zero tolerance of racist acts on the part of students. But, our public schools do not have sole responsibility to equip our youth to live in our increasingly diverse community.
Young people are not born racist. Students learn racist attitudes in their youngest years from family, friends, religious bodies (racial segregation in the U.S. is never more prominent than between 10 a.m. and noon on Sunday mornings), broadcast media and co-workers. If today’s youth are to learn how to live and work effectively in our diverse nation, then it will be the combined efforts of family, friends, businesses and religious organizations working together with the public school to produce this result.
The ugly incidents in Monroe and other schools give us an early warning that we have much work to do to create a cohesive, yet diverse, community. Our public schools are taking a leadership role in this endeavor, as they should. Success demands that leadership also come from the students’ families, from the media and the institutions where families shop, work, play and worship.
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