Having recently moved to Oak Park, we are disturbed by the recent article about the school suspension of an African American fourth-grader for what seemed run-of-the-mill classroom acting up [Lawmaker, parents say race a factor in D97 suspension, News, July 8]. 

The boy’s parents and State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (8th) feel that the severe punishment is an example of the disparate treatment and harsher punishments received by black students in District 97. And there are obviously legitimate reasons for their sentiments and their objections to the suspension of this little boy. 

Like most of the U.S., D97 has a long, ugly history of disproportionately suspending African American students. As reporter Michael Romain notes, this is “a reality that then-Superintendent Al Roberts acknowledged as ‘an issue’ and a work-in-progress to the Chicago Tribune in 2013.” 

But reading about this recent episode, I see no evidence of D97 acknowledging an issue of racial disparities in the punishment of children. In fact, there seems to be willful ignoring of the larger district-wide issues and the particular racial issues in the specific case of the child who was suspended. 

Angel Humphrey, the boy’s mother, has apparently reported ongoing issues between her son and the boy who was the target of a classroom outburst — including the alarming fact that, in the past, the boy used racial slurs against her son. 

Given the history of the district and the details of this child’s experiences at Holmes School, the public statements of the D97 spokesman are woefully inadequate. While D97 may not be at liberty to discuss the entirety of the situation publicly, the racially charged aspects of the suspended child’s experiences and D97’s own dismal record must be acknowledged and addressed. 

The families of D97 deserve a proper account of what this district is doing to address and extinguish racism in our schools — on the playground, in the classroom, and in the offices of administrators. Talk about cognitive dissonance! 

In the same issue of the Wednesday Journal, is a report that Oak Park’s village trustees sent the victims of the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina a resolution proclaiming that “black lives matter.” The resolution states that “the village government will pursue every opportunity to engage with others in our community and build relationships; and we will explore every opportunity to reduce and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities for all populations, and support efforts to increase diversity and promote racial equality in our village.” 

It’s high time we moved from lip service to action. If we cannot make good on this resolution in our schools, then where? 

Molly Wulkowicz

Oak Park

Join the discussion on social media!

3 replies on “D97 must move beyond lip service on race issues”