School Board, NAACP debate role, ‘behavior agreement’

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – Members of the Indian River County School Board and the NAACP spent two hours Tuesday morning discussing what each one’s role is in providing and supporting students’ education.

Among the issues was the use of “behavior agreements” that NAACP members said were being used to manipulate and intimidate parents. Tuesday’s was the second joint meeting between the NAACP and the School Board. The meetings were called to discuss the school district’s noncompliance with the 1969 desegregation order, which mandates certain percentages of African-Americans at schools.

According to Johnny Thornton, chairman of the NAACP’s education committee, only one school last year met the desegregation order, and that was Oslo Middle School. The district is waiting on the final numbers on this new school year’s population.

“We’re going in reverse,” Indian River County NAACP chapter president Tony Brown said.

Thornton told the School Board that he does not believe it is fair for students and parents to sign “behavior agreements” once the students have completed their time at the district’s Alternative Education Center, a place where students with disciplinary problems are sent to continue their education.

Thornton equated the agreement – which he and others have called a contract – to a “bull’s eye” on the students’ backs.

“They’re being red-flagged,” Thornton said, explaining that under the agreement, students have to check in with their guidance counselor and follow other rules.

NAACP members also took exception to the way administrators at schools fill out the forms, checking all the boxes pertaining to requirements to which students must adhere.

For instance, they pointed out, one student was placed at the Alternative Education Center for fighting, yet as part of the agreement, he had to submit to random drug testing, an issue the student had not been disciplined for.

Superintendent Harry La Cava, who once served as a principal at another district’s alternative center, said that should not have happened, that administrators should only be checking off the boxes that apply to that particular student’s situation.

“That will be corrected right away,” La Cava said. “I’ll tell you that.”

He, and board members, defended the use of the agreement, saying that it serves as a way to keep students and parents accountable as well as provide a way to keep track of students who may still need assistance.

La Cava said that re-training might be needed for staff to understand how the agreements are to be used.

Along with the agreements, the two groups discussed who is responsible for helping students achieve.

School Board member Claudia Jimenez, responding to Thornton’s question about how the board perceives the committee and joint meetings, said that she – as other members said – believes they are in a position to be allies.

However, she added the one thing she hasn’t heard from the NAACP is what it is doing to lend support to families and students to keep those students in school and performing.

“It’s a two-way street,” Jimenez said, noting that student success is built on more than just teachers and the school district, that it comes from the community, and parents, and family.

“It is not our job alone,” she said, adding that schools can only do so much.

Brown said that the group is meant as a watchdog, to make sure that the rules and regulations are being followed.

“It is not our job,” he said, to make sure that parents and the community are stepping up.

Brown later added that while it is not the NAACP’s direct mission to do so, the education committee is working on it.

They will be hosting a symposium Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Northside Church of God, located at 3790 45th Street, in Gifford, to address education issues with parents and students.

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