Abstract II

Title: What's in a Name? A Lawsuit, of course.
Author: William Raspberry
Submitted by: R.D.Sieber

This column article discusses the ramifications of special school programs designed to address a particular sub-group of the public school population. A recent court ruling from the U.S. Dept. of Education's Office of Civil Rights implies that groups that discriminate against or exclude others based on race or sex are in violation of the civil rights statute that prohibits this. The writer gave an example of an exemplary program in Prince George's County, Maryland, called the Black Male Achievement Initiative (BMAI), which was formed to mentor this population and foster achievement.
Prior to this ruling, discrimination with a defensible purpose, such as targeting an at-risk population, was considered acceptable. However, this ruling may change how educators look at the issue. The writer defends the ruling, stating that "the idea of special treatment for those with special problems is easiest to accept in family settings."
Funding discrimination with public money, this writer argues, sometimes offers an umbrella of opportunity for those who need help, as well as those who don't. In effect, stating that all people of a certain racial or ethnic group are disadvantaged in some manner by virtue of their race or ethnicity is no longer tenable. Therefore, not all members of a group should be afforded access to special programs that offer remediation or mentoring if they don't all need it.
The writer concludes by asking, "Wouldn't it make sense to have the special program for students with special needs (not racial or gender groups)?" In addition, he asks," ... wouldn't it make sense to avoid calling it by a name that suggests exclusion?"
There is much grist here for lawsuits.
Programs will probably have to be more specific in name and purpose in order to avoid including those who don't need the special treatment, as well as to avoid excluding those who do.
Administrators would do well to see who their programs are targeting to avoid litigation.
Source: Durham Herald Sun, Durham, NC. Friday, Feb.2, 1996, p.12A.