Rebecca Vanderhorst is , young, articúlate and black. She is also at the eye of a storm which has formed in i i the Ann Arbor School trict. Miss Vanderhorst is the , , Forsythe Junior High School teacher who was suspended from her position Feb. 3 for allegedly "causing student teacher misunderstanding and unrest and contributing to the disruption of a learning environment," a suspension which has touched off controversy among students, fellow teachers, the Board of j Education and parents. Revolving around a flier she printed and circulated , that said she was being forced to resign from her position as Black History Week coördinator and that other teachers were opposed to the plans for the observance, Miss Vanderhorst said she has been branded "the black militant." But to her, this incident only provided fuel for a fire that had been burning since early this fall between the administration and herself. "At the first of the year I was concerned about the black students at Forsythe," said Miss Vanderhorst, "and I asked for an assembly to discuss the problems they were having and find out why they were constantly in the halls." She said because this was to be just for black students her re.quest was immediately denied' by Forsythe Principal William Rude and she was accused of being a racist. Rude stated someone else may have referred to Miss Vanderhorst as a "racist" but he was not aware of any such charge and he said that he had not made such a remark. He also claimed that "he couldn't remember" if a request for a n all-black assembly was made to him earlier this year by the teacher. "I wanted to find out what their (the students') problems are . . . why they continuously miss c 1 a s s es or are systematieally expelled from certain classes . . ." Miss Vanderhorst said. "I just wanted to look into the problems of some of these 200 black students." said Miss Vanderhorst. Forsythe has approximately 1,150 white j students. In describing her _- ship with the black students she said that they "discovered that I am not a Torn." "I respect them and feel that they are sharp and creative but they have been stifled by the school system," said Miss Vanderhorst who had began her first year at Forsythe in September. Miss Vanderhorst, who had received criticism f rom some members of the faculty at Forsythe for being too lenient with black students in organizing 3. Black History Week program, feit that this would be a good outlet of expression for the students. "Too many of these students feel that once a black person becomes educated he has to become a 'Torn'," Miss Vanderhorst said. "It's not all in that black power Salute," she stressed, "it's in educating and developing black minds . . . it's in that black head." This is the concept she said she had tried to emphasize with these black junior high students, in and out of the classroom. And because sne had only a small number of blacks in her classes, she said that it was necessary to spend many of her free periods and much after-school time working with larger numbers of students. "For some of them it is a struggle for black identity, a struggle to be educated and still be what they feel is really black," she added. In some of their classes she said they didn't feel that the projects o r direction o f instruction was relevant to them and because of this they had little interest in what was going on. One black eighth grade girl voiced the opinión, "Nobody ever wants to do nothing for anybody black," Miss Vanderhorst related. This feeling among the students was one of the m a i n motivations behind her struggle in attempting to directly involve these students in the planning and presentation of the Black History Week program at Forsythe, she said. Some parents and faculty members charge this teacher ideas into the student's neaas' Others have expressed belief that the problems at the school have resulted from tensión between the teachers and administrators. "If I brought about all of these problems, why was there such an urgent need for a report on combating racism and effecting quality education for the schools," she questioned. Reflecting on the events of the past two weeks the young instructor who taught French at an elementary school last year and traveled to Paris over the summer said that although it hurt her to think that some black teachers fall into the dictates of the white power structure she should not have attacked them personally. At a recent meeting at the school, which was supposedly scheduled for parent and faculty discussion on the _Black History Week program md curriculum improvement, a series of accusations and recriminations were voiced jy Miss Vanderhorst to other teachers during a discussion by the group of her suspension. What has transpirea so iai since the incident Feb. 3? The administration makes no comment as to what the charge against Miss Vanderhorst is and because this is a matter for personnel, the Board of Education states that this is, as yet, still an administrative concern and not in the board's hands. Pending an investigation, Miss Vanderhorst remains suspended with pay from her teaching position at Forsythe. A resolution was recently adopted by the Black Educators and Black Parents Association of Ann Arbor in support of her. At a meeting at Forsythe I the day following the I dent, parents were asked to I understand the situation and I not to make judgments onal teacher. But Miss Vanderhorst feels I that she may be directly I blamed ior the polarization I between whites ánd blacks I although she says that these I attitudes are a culmination of I many, many years. According to one I trator, however, Miss I derhorst did things that were principally unethical when she created and distributed the flier. Black History Week has now come and gone since she was sent a telegram and registered letter informing her officially of her suspension but the controvresy over Rebecca Vanderhorst remams.
Rights Held By
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