Franklin HS singled out black kids with scholar pledge, parents claim

Elisa Hahn reports.

SEATTLE -- Some parents at Franklin High School claim their kids have been singled out, after the school distributed a letter to its African American students.

The form is titled “Keepin’ it 100.” It is basically an agreement for students to sign to fulfill their responsibility as “an African American scholar,” come to school on time every day and work toward completing high school.

One parent, Timika Anderson, said her 17-year-old daughter brought the form home two weeks ago. Anderson said her daughter was upset that the form was passed out only to black students. A similar form was sent home for their parents to sign, but the words “African American” were left out, making the form appear to be more general.

"She felt like they were being singled out," said Anderson. "They're not the only ones at school struggling."

Parents and students tell us African American families were invited to an assembly after school to explain what the staff is doing to improve graduation rates at school. 

The principal, Dr. Jennifer Wiley, declined an interview with KING 5. The school’s website said 97 percent of the students at Franklin are students of color. Wiley is known to be a strong proponent of closing the opportunity gap. 

Seattle Public Schools has launched a district-wide effort to close the opportunity gap, especially for its African American students. Rates of expulsion and suspension rates for African American students are four times higher than for white students. Seventeen out of every 20 white students graduate, whereas only 13 of every 20 African American students graduate.

"The program sounds like a good program to help our kids," said Anderson. "Not saying it's not. But why are they being singled out?" 

Seattle NAACP President Gerald Hankerson said the covenant, on its own, is particularly troubling in the way it appears to put the onus on the student, not the school.

"The problem is, if you're going to have straight talk and a conversation with these families and these kids, but you're not willing to admit your failures as an institution, that's where the problem begins," Hankerson said.

One student posted on Facebook, "As a Franklin student we're not mad about what she is trying to do we're mad about the approach."

Late Tuesday, Seattle Public Schools released a statement, that read, in part, "After meeting with senior students, Franklin staff discontinued the covenant as it proved to be a distraction from their original intent which is to increase efforts and support for African American students and ensure college readiness."

"In addition, a parent/community advisory group is under development to increase the school’s collective wisdom, inform their practices and build capacity to reach the goal of 100% of African American students college ready." 

Copyright 2016 KING


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