Irving ISD study finds black fifth graders feel 'lonely'

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by DEBBIE DENMON

WFAA

Posted on August 29, 2011 at 6:33 PM

IRVING — A new study finds African-American fifth graders in the Irving school district feel lonely and alienated, in part due to Hispanic influence in the classroom.

The 100-page study, titled "The Skin They're In" consisted of interviews with 124 black fifth graders over a three-year period. The study was commissioned because Irving ISD is about 71 percent Hispanic and 12 percent black, and it found African-American students are disciplined more than twice as often as other students.

"The African-American child is lonely because of being one of the few, somewhat proud students of African descent in a classroom full of minority students whose brown mannerisms, style, and language form the dominant culture of Irving's elementary classrooms," the study said.

Otis Brown Elementary School has more African-American students than most campuses in Irving ISD, though there are still classes that are 100 percent Hispanic.

Tysha Miner, the mother of two black students at Otis Brown Elementary, said her children have adjusted very well. However, their experience hasn't been without problems.

"We had one incident where name-calling and racial slurs were said, but the teacher addressed it," Miner said. "My daughter comes home and tells me things, so I had to explain to her the difference and really try to figure out how she felt when it happened."

The study found the children feel "isolated" and "inferior" because of the large number of Hispanic children who speak Spanish more than English.

"I'm glad that the study is going on, so everybody's voices can be heard and [changes] can be made," Miner said.

Teachers also learned from the study.

The African-American fifth graders felt their teachers showed favoritism to Hispanic students, so educators have opened up a dialog to encourage equality.

"We all have the same goal — which I really believe we do — and we do talk about it," said teacher Shelley Jeoffroy. "People shed some of their sensitivity about, 'Oh, don't accuse me of this, don't accuse me of that,' and let's just talk about it. Because that's one thing about children — they're incredibly honest."

Dana T. Bedden, the superintendent of Irving ISD, said the $100,000 study was approved before budget cuts.

However it has provided some results. The number of black children being disciplined has declined.

Two years ago, there were about 124 African American students in alternative schools. Since the study started, that number has fallen to 67.

E-mail ddenmon@wfaa.com

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