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Negro Demands Bring Change At Ann Arbor High

Negro Demands Bring Change At Ann Arbor High image
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"We hope to show that our good intentions are being folio wed up by concrete actions." School Supt. W. Scott Westerman Jr. was discussing the actions taken and the progress made on fulfilling the 21 demands to "correct racial inequities" at Ann Arbor High School. These demands were made by the high school's approximately 170 Negro students last May 27, in the wake of racial tensions triggered by the distribution of a curriculum questionnaire apparently considered discriminatory by the black pupils. Westerman called the larger problem of "developing a program of instruction more responsive to the needs of all children, particularly the disadvantaged," one of the "most urgent matters" facing the Ann Arbor School District. "We hope to proceed with intelligence and as quickly as possible" in solving this problem, the superintendent added. Westerman said he hopes the students ánd parents in the community will be "conscious of action programs that go beyond good intentions," and he spoke optimistically of the ability of the school district to make strides in this area: "I think we're in a better position than ever before to deal honestly, forthrightly and effectively with unmet needs of students. "But such actions will . . . require a constructive attitude on the part of students, parents and the community as a whole," he added, "in addition to the efforts of the faculty and staff." On June 12, Westerman told the Ann Arbor Board of Education how 14 of the 21 demands - modified by a joint committee of Negro students and high-school faculty and then remodified by the faculty as a whole and the superintendent - would be implemented. Since that date, a great deal of progress has been made on many of the implementations, and many of the promised changes are now realities. No action has been taken on seven demands, which will be referred to three Bi-Racial Advisory Boards for study. Two of these boards, which will advise the superintendent on race-related matters, will soon be created at Pioneer and Huron Highs. They will probably be composed o'f Negro students, other students, school personnel, parents and community residents. A third committee, entitled the Citizens' Committee to Advise the Superintendent on Race Relations, has held its first meeting. The f o 1 1 o w i n g organizations have been invited to send a representative to meet regularly with the superintendent and the director of human relations for the Ann Arbor Public Schools, Ronald Edmonds: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); Human Relations Commission; People Against Racism; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); .Chamber of Commerce; Negro Children's Education; League of Women Voters; Ann Arbor-Washtenaw Council of Churches; and American Association of University Women; American Civil Liberties Union; Coalition for Racial Justice; Black Forum; Civil Rights Co-ordinating Council, PTO Legislative Council and the National Conference of Christian and Jews. Here is a list of the 21 demands as originally presented, followed by their present status (designated with the approI priate number followed by the letter "&")■ lExamine and modify discipline policies and practices in the schools and prohibit differential and excessive punish-l ment or suspension of Negroes." ! la) A K-12 system-wide discipline policy is now undergo-l ing its second revisión and is being prepared for distribution I to the staff. Interested community groups - such as the 1 man Relations Commission and the PTO - will be asked forl their comments on the policy. Representatives of the Ann Arbor Education Association will particípate in forming the final policy. It will be distributed to all teachers by the second semester, possibly earlier. 2) "Elimínate the practice of marking down of students grades because of truancy, smoking, etc." 2a) Automatic marking down of student grades for such offenses has been eliminated. Penalties still exist, however, such as a three-day suspension for smoking on school property. Indirect penalties of missing school work and tests during suspension periods also continue. This work cannot usually be made up. 3) "Prohibit the assignment of pólice officers (in or out of uniform) in the school." 3a) The role of the poline officer shall be limited to pólice business only- a "significant" change according to Westerman. Human Relations Director Edmonds says this change means "the policeman's role is no longer ambiguous- he is no longer a school counselor and a policeman, only a policeman." Since 1965, Sgt. Chester Carter had filled the position of police-counselor at Ann Arbor High School. He will be replaced by Robert D. Robinson, who will be assigned to the Pioneer High building to serve both Pioneer and Huron students. Robinson will not have the responsibility of maintaining school discipline - this will be done by school personnel. The superintendent said there are no plans to station a similar pólice officer at Huron High when it opens, unless it seems "desirable" at that time. A revised description of the duties and responsibilities of the pólice officer at the high school has been reviewed by the administration and Pólice Chief Walter E. Krasny. It will be presented to the school board Sept. 11, Westerman said. 4) "Provide compensatory academie, psychological and social services for all children, Negro or white, from low-income families." 4a) According to Edmonds, there will be a "considerable" expansión of tutoring services this year at the high schools. The Basic Education courses, which teach reading, mathematics and other basic skills, have also been expanded. This year, they will be available both semesters and to both lOth and llth graders. Last year, the Basic Education classes were offered to lOth graders only during the first semester. Edmonds added that the ratio of social workers and counselors to students has been improved this year to a considerable degree. 5) "Provide a better quality of education for Negro students." 5a) Negro history will be taught in the Ann Arbor Public Schools this fall as an integral part of American history- a demand which many Negro students had been making for more than a year. Specifically on the eighth and llth grade levéis, and more generally in the elementary grades, the history of black Americans will be interwoven into the regular American history courses.