C. Educational System
Far too many African-American male students are not challenged educationally or expected to succeed. African-American males are typically assigned to less challenging curriculum and systemically discouraged from taking college preparatory courses. In many school districts, African-American males are disproportionately represented in special education classes. Teachers also have a low expectation of African-American males and unconsciously project this disposition to African-American male students. With no hope for future success, other then aspiration for playing professional sports, black males slowly but surely become discouraged with the school curriculum and redirect their attention to other activities that appear to give them immediate recognition, such as drug dealing. African-American males also become disruptive in class because of a lack of support; ultimately, they are suspended and drop out of school. Consequently, African-American males have the highest dropout rate and the lowest graduation rate of all other students. Many African-American males who drop out of school are functionally illiterate and will find it difficult to find meaningful employment. It has been suggested that African-American males are systemically targeted for failure as early as the fourth grade.
There is also empirical data which indicates that African-Americans, particularly African-American males, are disproportionately suspended and expelled from public schools. In 1992, the Houston public school system discovered that of the 15,847 students suspended the previous year, 50% were black, even though they constituted only 38% of the student body. Similarly, a school district in San Diego County reports that, during the 1990-91 school year, 91 out of every 100 African-American males were suspended, whereas 37 of 100 students overall were suspended. Even more shocking is that during the 1986-87 school year in New Orleans Public Schools, almost 80% of expulsions were black males.
In an effort to enhance the academic performance of African-American males in the education system and to encourage these students to remain in school, a number of school districts have proposed or implemented either an Afrocentric curriculum or an all African-American male school. Other programs have been developed at colleges and universities to provide African-American males support and mentoring to inspire them to perform well. Other educational institutions have established “think tanks” to explore ways to improve the educational status of African-American males.
When it was determined in 1991 that the education of African-American males in Detroit's public schools had deteriorated to a crisis level, the Detroit Board of Education passed a resolution supporting the creation of all-male academics. The Board's initiative for proposing a segregated, all male school was based on statistics which revealed the following:
[T]he drop-out rate, delinquency rate, referral of males to special education classes for students with learning disabilities and other handicaps, disciplinary infractions within the school system, drug addiction and other indicia of anti-social behavior indicated that male students in the Detroit School System were failing to succeed in greater numbers than female students within the school system.
The academies were designed to provide the boys with enriched educational opportunities which included Saturday classes on an Afrocentric curriculum, counseling, student uniforms, and other specialized curricular and extracurricular activities.
Less than a month before the academies were to open, a complaint was filed by a female student requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to enjoin the school board from opening the academies. The civil action alleged that the establishment of the allmale schools would violate both state and federal laws and the state and federal constitutions.
The district court granted injunctive relief and held that the school board's plan to open all-male academies violated the constitutional and statutory rights of all girls in the public school system. Moreover, the impact of the court's decision is not limited to the Detroit School District. Other school districts which may have intended to simulate the Detroit plan are likely to abandon efforts to establish all-male academies in order to avoid costly litigation.
In higher education, the overall achievements of African-American males continue to be a source of discouragement. For example, the high school completion rate for African-American males is lower than all other demographic groups. The overall enrollment of black males in college during the past four years has also continued to decline. Consequently, the percentage of African-American students who received college degrees decreased between 1980-1990, especially among those receiving bachelor, professional, and medical degrees. The number of African-American males receiving doctorate degrees also has continued to decline during the past few years. This has had a negative impact on the number of African-American males available to teach and conduct research at colleges and universities.