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Students Sound Off On School Tensions

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It has been two weeks since the series of racial incidents in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Students have returned to what seemingly appears to be a normal class routine, but from the viewpoint of I many blacks and whites a serious problem still exists. "Attitudes can't be changed over night," said Bryant Micu, a black Huron High student, "and I can't honestly say that meetings have made any visible change. We've been having meetings since 1967 but the situation always starts right back up again." A black Huron High teacher feels that the problems of race are not being dealt with by the schools. He said solutions are being sought by changing the environment of the system through schedule changing and curriculum instead of changing attitudes. "The administration believes that the problem is caused simply by students being turned off by the system and becoming frustrated," he said. A meeting initiated by a white counselor and a black teacher at Huron last week was held between eight white and black students to discuss four main questions: what particular incident caused the conflict? How could the incident have been handled differently? Why were different steps not used? And what steps must be taken to prevent future conflicts of the same nature? "This meeting was a preliminary step in determining any points of agreement between the two groups," said one of the teachers, "and from the discussion it was brought out that it was a rumor which started the entire incident." The students agreed that if a white girl had reported an incident of being harassed and had gone through the system the rumors would not have mushroomed into a racial conflict. Another black student questioned the Huron high administration for suspending a black female student on the allegations made by another white student without any investigation being made. It was stated at the meeting that several white students recognized at least 10 white outsiders in the hall at the time of the incident. The black students said they did not reccgnize any black,.outsiders being involved although some white students said they saw two during the time of the disturbance. "I don't feel that talking about this is going to help or change the situation," said a black Huron senior. "It's an individual thing, not a group issue, but when someone jumps on one of your friends you feel you must protect him." Another student, who is white, added that "the whites feel the blacks started it and the blacks feel the whites started it and regardless of who started it, its just a natural thing to join in." "I think that the teachers' reaction to the whole incident prolonged the crisis," commented a black student. "I hear people that were involved in the fighting laughing about what happened." Dan Healey, a white Huron student who attended the meeting, said he feit attitudes were definitely changing as a result of everything that has happened. "The recommendations of the blacks and whites don't deal specifically with black and white but with things that are needed for all students," he said. "It is no longer necessary for students to be in fear," he added. "We've decided that the whole thing started with rumors and at least now white and black students are willing to talk about the problem," Healey said. Another student who was also involved in formulating the recommendations from the white group said, "Violence has taken place in the past and it hasn't accomplished anything. Since the incident at Huron students' attitudes have definitely changed and I feel the faculty has taken a complete turn-around in trying to talk to students and show their concern." Micu and another black student disagreed, saying they could see no change in the attitudes of white staff at the school and that they were still worried about the individual safety of the black girls at the school. Brand McLaughlin, a white Huron student, said, "I don't think that most white students are fearful of harassment and both white and black students seem to be staying cool around each other." "I think if we continue with meetings like we just had we avoid future incidents and begin solving our problem," said McLaughlin. "The in-put is tremendous now and I feel the faculty is really trying to bring out the issues that can clear up rumors." McLaughlin continued, 'Tve been labeled a greaser but I feel that I am a concerned student. Not all students are really concerned about the situation. There is no way to change the fact that there will always be fights between blacks and whites, but having gang fights isn't going to solve anything." A white social studies teacher, Desmond Ryan, said that he watched the white student movement change from one of strictly violence to one of moderation. He also said that although some positive viewpoints had developed it won't be until the majority of the high school students are touched in some way It has been two weeks now since the racial incidents at Pioneer and Huron high schools. Are things back to normal? How do the students . see the situation now? To find out, Ann Arbor News school reporter Sharon Woodson interviewed a cross section of black and white students and teachers at both schools. This is what she found out. by an incident that they become really concerned about what goes on in the school. "Meetings between blacks and whites should begin before the high schools," commented McLaughlin, "they should have them in the junior highs and grade schools." At Pioneer High School "some students attitudes are better and some are worse" according to Sherman Whitman a black student. ."Basically the white teachers don't want to get involved in any racial issues and they don't care that much," said Whitman, who is also student government president. "As long as it doesn't affect them they won't do anything. It's a sad thing to have to say but some people need to have a fist in their mouth before they wake up." According to Whitman and other black students the same resentment and fear still exists in the school. "The only change is that there have been no fights ... but if there was a fight today the same things would just blow up again." When asked how he would solve the problem at the school, Whitman responded that everybody has to do something because everyone has a part. "But ' actly how it is to be done I can't say." According to black students at Pioneer there seems to be a resentment developing against them. J "This is the first year that we have : had a black homecoming queen and : there was a letter to the editor in The News voicing objection to this," said Whitman. "I used to be more of a racist before ' the incident last week," said Paul La Roe, a white Pioneer senior. "But now I feel very little prejudice." La Roe was asked how he would solve the problem and he said, "Take the 10 most racist white students and the 10 most racist black students and put them in the same class. You teach them to respect one another by arguing out their differences and if they want to fight yoü" give them boxing gloves and let them relieve their hatreds." Another white student, Judy Watkins, said the majority of white and black students have always had respect for each other. "There are only a few students who like to raise hell, and it soon involves the whole student body." "I really feel that the teachers and counselors care but they have a weird way of showing it and they should permit white students to hold any kind of white student union meeting they want to," said Miss Watkins. She also said that she was not fearful of harassment. "The blacks are the same as whites and everyone can get harassed if they put themseives in the position to be . . . everyone is alike black or white so why should I be fearful or someone like myself?" she said. According to Jeff Ristine, a white Pioneer junior, "for the most part attitudes are changing for the worse. Rather than respect there is hostility and in some cases, féar. But I am optimistic about the future." He continued, "telling the teachers what to do will not solve the problem. Instead maybe they can come up with some solutions. There are students from both races who are working hard to make progress. But unless more get involved and unless there is a change in the attitudes of black and white students, these meetings will do little good." This white student said the entire problem was one of attitudes and ty, distrust and racism, and its goi%g to be up to each student to solve his own problem. Robert Foster, a black Pioneer student, said, "I think whites are reacting because blacks are finally getting recognized." He said he feit the principal and a few other administrators were really trying to get in vol ved in sol ving the problem. He added that they should look to other places in the country to learn some new techniques in dealing with the problem. 'It's going to take something more serious than just answering demands," Foster said. "The schools should spend some of their funding for research into the problem and then existing facilities to implement new programs more relevant to all students." "Ann Arbor is too good of a community to have these types of problems but they ignored what was said in 1968 and tried to believe that racial conflicts didn't exist," continued Foster. Foster added that as long as racism is here the problems in the schools will continue. The best way to solve them is to begin to understand that there is a problem, he said. "And it's not just up to the schools, its a community problem." Liz Hodgins, a white senior at Pioneer, said: "I'm very idealistic and would like to believe attitudes are changing - on I the surface it appears that way, but ra' cism is instilled in everyone and it's racial confrontations like what happend recently that bring out the real attitudes." She said the majority of teachers were only concerned with "cooling down" the incident so they could resume their normal activities. The few that do care, she said, are harassed by the administration and by their students so they can't really relate to their classroom.