By John Hubbuch
I was amused to learn that a couple of girls from the OPRF girls' varsity hockey team told the District 200 that there was no discrimination on their squad. Never mind that no one ever accused the team of discrimination. Their appearance was apparently a result of Board member Pathak-Layman's observation that a some of of the high school sports teams had very few minority participants. She went on to suggest maybe the high school should do something about it. Such a course involves a very slippery slope.
This issue has been around for years and years. When my sons were at OPRF, the drill team was almost all white. The cheerleaders were almost all black. The same demographic disparity existed for pretty much the same teams then as now.
Although never a focus, similiar imbalances probably exist across the entire co-curricular program. I suspect there is under representation of minorities on yearbook, newspaper and plays. There aren't many white kids in the Gospel Choir. It would seem that like seeks like.
A much greater detailed anaysis would be necessay to understand this issue. I'm not sure if it's an "issue" or a "problem". And if it is a problem whether there is anything you can do about it. Or whether given limited resources the high school would better focus on substance abuse and closing the achievement gap.
Prior to junior high our sons played with the black kids, and race was not an issue. But in junior high the kids drifted into black and white groups for lunch seating and after school hanging out. No one was at fault. It just happened. The boys remained friendly with the black children, but it wasn't the same. Fortunately, they played basketball at the high school, and they had some closer African-American friends.
This issue is not confined to the sports teams at OPRF The percentage disparity exists in the academic program and in the parent groups as well. Even though Oak Park is an integrated community by statistical data, you could argue that we're pretty segregated in our daily lives. More importantly, this self-segregation seems to not really be something most people -young or old, black or white--seem to be bothered about except maybe for Ms. Patchak-Layman.
When I was on The Booster Board we were always talking about increasing minority participation, but like the field hockey team , most Board members concluded that participation was up to the individual and since we believed that we welcomed everbody there wasn't much more to be done.
So the disparity is a result of culture and personal preference, and there's nothing that can be done. Maybe. But of course, there is always something that can be done , but it requires time and money. Using field hockey as an example, articulation between junior and senior high and the parks could result in the creation of clinics, free play, jamborees and other events designed to introduce field hockey to younger kids. The high school could sponsor intramural program designed to introduce field hockey to 9th graders. It could expand the program to create more participation slots. It could hire a minority coach.
Almost every board I have served on in Oak Park has had limited minority participation. Some of these tried to address it. Some, like OPRF's Board , didn't want to. The first step is to decide whether or not the under representation is a problem that needs to be addressed, or whether it is a cultural reality that just is , and should be left alone. A difficult, but interesting issue.