Monday, April 24, 2017

You Big Dummy!: The Stereotyping of African American Male Students in K-12 Education


Yesterday, I read Sophia Alvarez Boyd’s article, “His teacher Told Him He Wouldn’t Go To College, Then He Did” (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/04/23/520021794/his-teacher-told-him-he-wouldnt-go-to-college-then-he-did).  In her essay, Boyd discusses Ronnie Sidney’s account of being “discriminated against in school as an African American.”
I know my share of Ronnie Sidneys.  I lived with one, and I also taught several. From 1988-1992, I attended Bishop Noll Institute (BNI).  BNI is a Catholic high school located in Hammond, Indiana.  I had some wonderful instructors, and they pushed me to excel.

As I look back, I now understand that I was an African American female attending a Catholic high school, and my experiences were probably different than my black male peers.

My brother, and his African American male friends, had a different experience at the same high school.  He attended Noll from 1995-1999.  During his high school years, there were a significant number of black male students.  From my assessment, I sense that they were not properly mentored. By the time that my sibling was in high school, I was college dealing with issues related to racial battle fatigue; however, I recall how my parents informed me  about my brother’s lack of motivation.   When I came home for holiday breaks, I watched my brother’s interactions with his close friend.  I asked them about school, and they would roll their eyes and tell me that not everyone was like my “nerdy ass,” etc. . . I also noticed that my brother was nearly obsessed with talking about the black experience.

Everything made sense after he posted Boyd’s article on his Facebook timeline.  My brother,  like Ronnie Sidney, was one of the many black boys, who was told “none of you are going to college.”  During our Noll experience, there was only one African American instructor, and he was a classic example of a Golden Negro.  Those boys probably did not receive much mentoring from him.
 
Our family’s Ronnie Sidney is Ryon Jayson, Cobb, Ph.D.  He is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at The University of Southern California. 

Discrimination against African American male students, particularly those who receive special education accommodations is real, and it impacts graduation rates.  Boyd states that during the 2014-2015 school year, nearly “37% percent of black students with a disability left high school, compared with 23 percent of white students with a disability – a 14 percentage point difference.” 

Sidney claims that his special education teachers were extremely supportive, yet his mainstream instructors failed to make a meaningful connection with him.  He recounts how his English instructor had assigned the class to read aloud a book that contains the racial slur, nigger.  When Sidney was asked to read excerpts of the book aloud, he replaced the word with “neighbor,” and other words that began with the letter, “N.”  He was reprimanded for not taking the task seriously.

Sidney is not the only one.  Boyd reports that “one in four black boys with a disability were suspended during the 2013-2014 school year, compared with one in 10 white boys with a disability. “  Consequently, the probabilities of black boys, who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), are likely to drop out of high school. 
Sidney graduated from high school and college.  He also has a master’s degree in social work.  Sidney wrote the children’s book, Nelson Beats the Odds.  It is based upon his experiences with special education.

Dr. Donna Y. Ford, a Vanderbilt University education professor, strongly argues for teacher training that requires educators to be “aware of their own biases – implicit or explicit.” She is 100% correct.  I witnessed racial biases against African American special education students.   I taught in both urban and affluent high schools, and the comments made regarding black males, who had an IEP, were atrocious.  These were some of the comments that I heard:

·      -   Cicely, why are you wasting your time?  His daddy is in jail, and he’s going to be in a cell right next to him

·      -   All the kids, in that family, are special ed.  There’s only so much that we can do
·        - Just pass him along.  McDonalds needs someone to hand you your bag of food, or greet you at Wal-Mart.

·       -  Cicely, I simply don’t have the patience to deal with this anymore.  You should see all of the accommodations mentioned in his IEP.  I don’t have time to “cater” to him.

These teachers failed that to understand that they were making these comments TO a black woman.  I would see them bend over backwards to:

·        - Help a white student get tested for special education services

·       -  Cry along with white parents when their child was struggling with school work

·      -   Make follow-up phone calls with white parents about their student’s progress

I spoke with two white teachers from a Phoenix, Arizona elementary school district that proudly celebrates the fact that they have been providing educational services for 125 years.   I asked them about black boys and how they are treated at their school.  One woman said, “Cicely, it breaks my heart.  My white colleagues do not know how to identify the cultural issues impacting these black male students, and rather than learn about it, they immediately get them tested for special education services and/or ask that they be removed from their classroom.  It’s heartbreaking.” 

After the conversation ended, I asked myself:  How is this white female teacher, who has a black son, serving as an advocate for African American children at her school?  Is she willing to stand up, or is she quiet in fear of retaliation? 

Questions to consider:

·       -  Is the average black parent aware of how her child is being treated, or have white educators convinced her that her son is simply “bad?”

·     -    How many black boys are labeled “big dummies,” combative, and difficult per year?

·      -   How is this treatment only strengthening the pipeline of sending black boys to prison?
 What is the correlation between special education and prison for black male youth?

·       -  What happens to white teachers who advocate for children?
 









Saturday, April 22, 2017

You Are Just Not What Our School Needs: Principals and the Bullying/Termination of Teachers in K-12 Education





A substantial number of African American elementary and secondary education instructors are electing to leave the profession.  Today, I would like to examine the role that K-12 principals play in teachers leaving the field faster than the Israelites left Egypt. In “Bullying of Teachers Pervasive in Many Schools, “ (http://neatoday.org/2012/05/16/bullying-of-teachers-pervasive-in-many-schools-2/_  Cindy Long states that bullying is on the rise in the workplace, and this is especially “prevalent in the field of education.” The bullying of K-12 instructors has “become a serious problem.”

Long discusses a teacher’s experience with her principal.  The Augusta, Maine instructor was emotionally scarred from her interactions with her school’s administrator.  In fear of retaliation, she wanted her story told, but she would not allow Long to name the school where the bullying occurred.  Although no longer employed with the school district, the educator feared that her former employer would blackball her.  She states, “I am sufficiently frightened enough by my former employers to fear that maybe they could still hurt me.  I need to get a new job but won’t be able to do so if I am unable to receive one recommendation from an administrator.  I know it and so do they.”

Her problems stemmed from her failure to transfer to both a new school and new grade level.  By her failure to leave the school, administrators began to:

-       - examine her test scores

-      -  ask her students to leave her class for 1:1s in order to discuss how effectively she taught.  Students were asked not to discuss these meetings with her

-      -  accuse her of not using technology in her classroom

-      -  request her weekly lesson plans a week in advance

-       - say that she overly relied upon the school’s literacy coach

Her peers warned her that she was being targeted, and due to health issues, the instructor quit. 

Long notes that it is not solely administrators who bully instructors.  Both fellow teachers and helicopter parents have a way of bulldozing teachers, who they have labeled as ‘ineffective.’   Mr. Carv Wilson, a Legacy Junior High geography teacher, states that the “only thing that seemed to offer any protection was membership in our local association.”

At least for the state of Arizona, I beg to differ.  I have personally witnessed teachers, who were members of the teachers union, attempt to go to their union representative, for assistance, and receive the following response:  “I am fearful of our principal.  I am one year away from retirement, and if I help you, the principal will then come after me.  You may want to contact our sister high school and ask their Union representative to help you.   I see what you are going through, and I know that if I help you, I will be targeted. “  Therefore, some teachers quit the Union and created a savings account for possible lawyer fees, especially after realizing, like Mr. Wilson, that their administrator “revel[ed] in people being driven out of education or to another school.” 

If white instructors are feeling this way,  one can only imagine the fatigue that African American K-12 teachers endure.  My colleagues have witnessed both Caucasian and African American principals engage in these practices.  Yet, with black administrators, who are bullying African American teachers, the bullying is worse.   For some black administrators, if they feel as if a fellow African American educator has ‘disobeyed’ them, they take it personally, and the attacks are brutal.  Here are some of the incidents that have been shared with me:

Some black principals:

·      - brand the African American educator as “crazy”

·      - will believe anything that Caucasian teachers say about the instructor.  The White teachers’ hearsay is believed even when the black teacher has evidence to support himself

·      - will primarily call in white students for 1:1s, and just as seen with the Main instructor, the white students will be asked not to say anything about the meeting.  If black students are called in, and said students praise the African American teacher, the black administrator will make statements such as, “Did he ask you to say this?  Are you making these remarks out of fear?

·      - will promote, within the community, the need for the black educator to be fired in order to “protect” the students, although the students are the bullies
·       especially, within an affluent school district, will need to retain their status as the “Golden Negro” and attempt to destroy the “radical black teacher

·    -   typically feel threatened by the bullied teacher due to age, beauty, education, etc.  . .

·      - have received their jobs solely due to being a “Golden Negro,” and if they do not appease the white community, may become bullied and lose their position


Do y’all still think that we reside in a post racial society?   In his video, Dr. Boyce Watkins, an African American author and social commenter, talks about black administrators terminating African American teachers (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KH2rXOZ_qp0
).  Boyce emphasizes the word, “allegedly,” but one can infer that he questions the motives of Ms. Angelique Blackon, the black principal, at Howard University Middle School, who fired educators for teaching black history.  You can read about the story here:

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/02/03/383574693/lots-of-confusion-over-teacher-firings-at-howard-university-middle-school

I am sure that there are some Caucasian and African American readers - - - those who buy into this post-racial society foolery – are thinking, “Dr. Cee must be crazy.  These black principals are hiring African American teachers.  Therefore, why would they want to bully them?”  My response, “Are you familiar with what occurred on plantations between house and field blacks?  If not, please take an African American history course at your local university.” 

A bullying incident, involving an African American principal and teachers, occurred in Maryland.  When black teachers attempted to protect a white teacher, their black administrator targeted them:


Often, some black administrators like to say phrases such as, “I would never say that.  That doesn’t even sound like something that I would say.”  It is as if they have carte blanche not only within their school and district, but within the community.  One day, abused teachers have to hope that these administrators’ discretionary power will disappear. 








Friday, April 21, 2017

Where is the Attendance Line’s Calling in Black Option: Racial Battle Fatigue and the African American K-12 Educator



This morning, I informed a colleague that I was writing about racial battle fatigue and its impact on African American teachers.  I mentioned that I could write a book, in my sleep, about the topic.  She said, “Cicely, no one should be able to write about that.”

Le sigh.

Nearly 13 years ago, I received my Ph.D. from Purdue University.  While there, I suffered from racial battle fatigue, but I had NO idea how challenging it was until I became an Arizona certified teacher.  For seven years, I dealt with passive-aggressive White educators and Golden Negroes, the Judas Iscariots of K-12 education.  My interactions, with them, emotionally and physically drained me.   Sam P .K. Collins explores racial battle fatigue in his article, “Black people aren’t making things up:  The science behind ‘racial battle fatigue” (https://thinkprogress.org/black-people-arent-making-things-up-the-science-behind-racial-battle-fatigue-9726fcebc938).    His discuses William A. Smith’s coinage of the phrase, “racial battle fatigue.”  Initially, Smith used his phrase to describe the impact of “racialized microagressions” on black students.  In his essay, “Challenging Racial Battle Fatigue,” Smith argues that black students often “worry, have trouble concentrating, become fatigued, and develop headaches when navigating personal and professional spaces that have historically favored white people.”   

Although these students graduated and possibly obtained a good paying job, their fatigue probably did not disappear.  If anything, it may have worsened.   From my experiences, K-12 schools are a battleground where black teachers will may fight against racial injustice and desire to “call in black” at least twice per month.  African American teachers may find themselves:

·      serving as their school's Rosetta Stone in regards to anything pertaining to the African American experience

·       teaching a black literary work, yet since they are the African American teacher, Caucasian students
* will ask them questions that they would not think to ask their White teachers, and the instructors’ Caucasian colleagues may deem them as deviating from what they agreed to address during their planning meetings

·      being asked how they manage to change their handbags/shoes on a daily basis, which is code for “How can you EVEN afford those luxury items?”

·      receiving compliments regarding their wardrobe, yet be told, “It must be nice to be able to afford new clothes”

·      constantly having to “prove” that they are smart, and no university “gave” them their degrees

·      trying to explain their hardships to a fellow black teacher to only find out that person is a Golden Negro. That reality also contributes to racial battle fatigue


White educators, many black teachers are tired, and your failure to properly assess our anger, fatigue, and desire to abandon the profession is disturbing.  You hire us, but what genuine support do you provide us?  White students/parents are demeaning us; our white colleagues cannot wait to run into a department chair’s office and “drop a dime,”
and you still expect us to:

·      grade papers in a timely manner

·      come to work and look perky-perky

·      smile extensively throughout our professional day

·      return to our classrooms, with a smile, after we have been admonished in an administrator’s office over a White student’s complaint

·      act as if we are extremely happy to work at a place that claims that they are an institution that provides equal employment opportunities to all staff

Then, there are the Golden Negroes who only add fuel to the fire. 

If you are suffering from racial battle fatigue, please consider this advice:

·      leave your job in the parking lot daily

·      know that the “crazy” should never define who you are

·      if someone calls you crazy because you complain, and they say that you are fabricating racial issues, do not even waste your energy trying to change their views, especially if they are a Golden Negro.  Golden Negroes will never learn until the white community, who they depended on to elevate them, ends up abandoning them

·      find a good support system

·      fight racial fatigue by pushing yourself NOT to quit your job/profession


·      if you are religious, seek guidance from your pastor

·      WRITE.  Keep a journal regarding your experiences.  Use them to create a blog, scholarly articles, etc. . .

·      find yourself a seasoned, White veteran instructor who wills serve as your advocate.  Although it pains me to say this, I have witnessed how school districts have embraced the notion that “White is right, and black teachers are non-factors.”  Find yourself a so-called “factor” that will present the “facts” about you to those that are attempting to oppress you


Lastly, identify the Sub Finder phone number as one of your “Favorites.”  If you have the sick time, call and take a personal day.  You earned it.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Students, Meet Your New Teachers, Miss Pollyanna and Senor Pocho: The Need to Change White and Hispanic Teachers’ Vision of K-12 Education



 Amy Davis





The film, “Freedom Writers,” led to a significant number of Caucasian desiring to become K-12 educators.  Their aim was to see teaching as their “ministry.” Similar to Whitney Houston, they believed that the “children were the future,” and their ultimate goal was to “teach them well” so that they could eventually “lead the way.”  A prime example of this type of educator is Amy Davis.  In “How to Change White Teachers’ Lenses” (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/tomorrows_test/2016/06/how_white_teacher)s_can_become_culturally_competent.html ), Vanessa Romo explores how U.S. students are “now majority minority,” whereas their K-12 instructors are not.  In the article, Romo discusses Davis’s nontraditional path to a teaching career.  In 2002, Davis began teaching second-graders in South Los Angeles.  Prior to teaching, Davis was an executive.

From my perspective, she was the teaching equivalent of Disney’s Miss Pollyanna.  This was a young woman, with eyes dazzled with hope,  who only anticipated “occasionally hit[ting] snags with issues like lesson planning.”  Although she was accused of “sounding black” by white supervisors, and spent her childhood amongst African Americans, she still was not African American.

When I initially read Romo’s account of Davis’ initial teaching experiences, I said aloud, “Sister-girl, you are teaching in the hood.  I’m black, and I could tell you that lesson planning was going to be the least of your worries.”  Davis, a product of a poor, white, single-parent household thought that she easily relate to her black and Latino student population due to her upbringing.  She attended 61st Street Elementary, a “predominantly black school” where her “skin color was never discussed.”  After middle school, she was bused to a white school, where she felt as if she was an outsider.  From my perspective, Davis believed that she and the children could be Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown and sing, “We Got Something in Common.”  Both could relate to:

·      mothers who had to rely upon food stamps and welfare in order to feed their children

·      living in poverty

·      being raised in a single-parent household

The one commonality that Davis, however, did not share with her student population – she was not a person of color, and that difference would impact her first year of teaching in South L.A.  Secondly, Davis had escaped her years of poverty, and was an “established member of the middle class.”  Although she came from a poor background, she was not “culturally competent.”  Davis is a member of the 80% white teacher workforce.  What makes her stand out is that Davis, during her tenure as a teacher in a Title One school, strove to create a bond with her students.  Davis understood that she needed to understand their lives as students as well and  children navigating life in a poor community. 

Romo makes some excellent points in her article.  I love her statement, “Becoming a culturally competent white teacher means a lot more than setting a few Shakespeare sonnets to a hip-hop beat.”  I concur that it takes more than privileged White teachers (you can still be privileged and come from the hood) having students engage in Come to Jesus moments in order to understand minority students.  Davis realizes this and fully IMMERSES herself into her students’ culture and environment.  She called students’ parents, and as a result, the students started performing more effectively in her classroom. Amy started reading novels where the central characters were children of color. In essence, Davis “walked the walk and talked the talk.”  Davis became an educator who was culturally sensitive to the needs of her student population.  In this environment, her conversational cadence was appropriate and valued.

In her article, Romo cites Dr. Sally Campbell Galman,  I need to meet Dr. Sally Campbell Galman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts and give her the hardest high-five.  Galman strongly argues that the reason as to why a significant number of K-12 educators fail is because a substantial number of teacher trainers are older, Caucasian academics who do not feel comfortable addressing race issues.

White, older college professors are not the only culprits.  They are also older White  K-12 department chairs who embrace this mentality.  Let me break this down for you.  Your average K-12 educator will have a White female department chair who will:

·      act as if she celebrates diversity

·      will find a black student, who is talented, and treat that child like a “show pony”

·      ignore the cries of black teachers, enduring racist acts by Caucasian students and their parents, 
      although she is an advocate for her “show pony.” 


I need for white K-12 educational trainers and department chairs to do better.  As Galman suggests, Caucasian supervisors, please realize your White privilege and deal with racism.   You are looking at children of color on a daily basis, and you need to do right by them.  If racism makes you feel that uncomfortable, please leave the profession.

Period. 

Amy Davis is currently an assistant principal at  66th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, CA.   I am extremely proud of her.  She is on her way to being a Dr. Marybeth Glasman.  Indeed, K-12 educators need an advocate like Marybeth. 

Senor Pocho



Senor Pocho.  Oh, I how know my share of Senor Pochos. Pochos are a Mexican version of an Uncle Tom (Tio Tomas).  Many Hispanic Americans view Mario Lopez as a Pocho.   It hurts my heart when I see a person of color SELL OUT, and in my K-12 experience, I have not only see my share of black K-12 Uncle Toms, I have also worked with my share of Senor Pochos.  I have to ask Hispanic instructors, what is it about being Hispanic that troubles you? This question is  similar to the one that I pose to Golden Negroes.  We have white educators teaching in the hood, making great strides to be culturally diverse, yet a significant number of Hispanic educators (from my perspective) are trying to abandon their roots, and be Hispanic “when convenient.”  If you embrace this type of behavior, how are you being a role model for children of color?  Here are my experiences with Senor Pocho:

·      typically a fair-skinned Mexican-American

·      has a last name that could one could think is Italian

·      came from the barrio/raised by a single Hispanic mother

·      father is absent

·      is a smart child and benefited from minority scholarships

·      “makes it” and becomes a teacher in a school district

·      is “Hispanic” when convenient

·      typically steers away from radical Hispanic and African American educators

·      exclusively dates White women.  If she is from a wealthy family, that is a plus

·      wants to only “bond” with teachers of color when his back is against the wall

·      is loved by white and Golden Negro administrators

·      wants to be “cool” with the popular Hispanic , Caucasian and black students, especially athletes

From my experiences as well as the black K-12 educators who spoken to me about their interactions with Hispanic teachers, I must ask Senor Pochos the following questions:

·      Why do you self-hate?

·      Since you self-hate, and education’s mission is to help children self-love, why are you an educator?

·      How supportive are you to black educators? 

·      Do you see yourself as a culturally conscientious instructor?

·      What are you doing to ease the burdens associated with being a teacher of color?


















Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Watch Your Mouth, Gal: African American Female K-12 Educators and Tone




Throughout my teaching career, several of my black female colleagues and I have been accused of “getting tone.”  Typically, it has been a white woman who has made the accusation. After a series of deep conversations, my peers and I came up with the following equation: 

White woman/man accuses black woman of tone issues = Code for black woman being too black.

In “Do White Folks Fear Violence When Black Folks Are Just Being 
Blunt,”(http://www.theroot.com/do-white-folks-fear-violence-when-black-folks-are-just-1790874657) John McWorther explores how America “process[es] black boys as inherently violent,” due to their tone.  He provides examples of black men having a conversation that Caucasians may classify as one that has what Kelefa Sanneh calls a “confrontational cadence.” Many blacks,  however, would classify their conversation as sounding  “like two guys letting off steam.” 

McWorter’s article hit me hard, especially with his statement, “For a people whose history has been so confrontational, maybe it isn’t surprising that their speech reflects it.” 

As a former K-12 educator, I witnessed white female instructors:

·         Use profanity and sexual terms to describe students

·         Speak to students in a demeaning manner

·         Use  inappropriate non-verbal gestures towards students (i.e. rolling eyes)

Yet, their actions did not warrant a parent-teacher conference.  The students viewed them as possibly having a bad day/ “on the rag,”/”needing some D,”  and things would be back to “normal” the next day.  Some African American women instructors, find themselves literally practicing how they are going to admonish “Susie” prior to uttering the words.  This is a prime example of racial fatigue.  For example, if Ms. Jackson says “this,” it may result in “Susie” feeling as if she is going to have an anxiety attack, and although Susie has ongoing issues at home, or with other peers, which has caused her to be prescribed medication, Ms. Jackson will be blamed. 

Ms. Jackson will then find herself being admonished by her supervisor and possibly her school’s administration team.  Her supervisor and/or administrators may then want to pair her with a “Golden Negra” who is extremely “articulate and soft-spoken.”  They may use the school’s  Omarosa Manigault prototype to mentor Ms. Jackson regarding her diction, word selection, as well as issues that she is having with race on the job. 

Although the staff will deem their actions as “meaning well,” they fail to realize that they are only adding fuel to the fire.  As noted in Danielle Moss Lee’s article, “The Black Woman In the Mirror:  When Black Women Struggle to Champion Each Other At Work,” (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/black-woman-mirror-when-women-struggle-champion-each-moss-lee-ed-d-?trk=v-feed)  “black women are not monolithic.” African American women come to their job with their own set of values and mores.  Caucasian and black administrators need to understand that not all black teachers share the same “cultural, racial, and historical experience.”  Therefore, it is wrong to even suggest that fellow black teachers reach out to each other for mentoring. In short, not everyone who identifies themselves as black, on the U.S. Census, is black. 

Questions to consider:

·         How can black teachers navigate this “ landmine” (having the correct “tone”)?

·         Should African American female teachers be forced to suppress their “directness,” or should school districts learn to better understand our cadence?

·         Are black female teachers simply “fussin” or are they actually having tone issues? What’s the difference?




Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dr. Paul Miller’s Cyberbullying: Breaking the Cycle of Conflict – Methodology



Last week, I introduced my five part series regarding Dr. Paul Miller’s qualitative study pertaining to the African American female experience with cyberbullying in an urban environment/urban school setting.  This post pertains to the methodology that Miller used to demonstrate that black girls’ social media engagement oftentimes resulted in school suspension,  Secondly I will address the methods used to store and manage his data.

Study's Setting

Miller’s research was conducted at Monticello High School (MHS), which is affiliated with the Fidelity Central School District (FCSD) (Note:  Miller changed the name of the school and school district.).   His study was conducted during the 2008-2009 school year. The school’s 2008-2009 demographics were: 

FCSD

·         Was a large school district located in upstate New York
·         Had approximately 35,000 “racially and ethnically diverse students”
·         Had 64% Black, 22% Hispanic, 11% Caucasian, and 3% Asian students
·         Had 84% of their student population receiving lunch assistance
·         Was the “worst poverty of the five largest districts in the state”
·         Had a high percentage of student suspensions.  The suspensions were served on campus in order to keep students from being on the local streets
·         Suspended 7000 students during the years of Miller’s study.  Nearly 2,500 of these incidents stemmed from “intimidation, harassment, menacing, bullying, minor altercations, and assaults with physical injury.”  Of these 7,000 suspensions, Black students accounted for 5,260 in-school suspension issuances.

Miller states that the District’s data was not “broken up by race and gender.” 

MHS

·         Contained 1,100 students during the years of Miller’s study
·         Ethnic background consisted of:  “750 black, 150  Hispanic, 135 Caucasian, 73 Asian, and six Native American students”
·         Provided school lunch assistance to 93% of its student population.  This figure is higher than FCSD’s lunch assistance average (84%)
·         Had a surrounding neighborhood where the average income was $18,000
·         Administered 460 suspensions to students for a variety of reasons, that include “intimidation, harassment, menacing, bullying, etc. . .

Research Methodology

During the 2008-2009 school year, Miller was an Assistant Principal at Monticello.  He had access to school data, including suspension records, academic records, and students’  contact information.  For his study, Miller used a “phenomenological approach” as a means to understand the girls’ experiences.  This methodology was utilized because cyberbullying was a. ) a fairly new topic in 2011 b.) the crucial aspects of the phenomenon were unknown and c.) “discourse was not given to a specific group of people” (53).   Per Miller, the parts of the phenomenon, that needed understanding, was the impact that cyberbullying had on African American adolescent females in an urban high school setting.  

As noted in the first part of the Miller series, adverse living and family conditions can pose as “triggers” for minority students’ misbehavior.   At the time of the research study, Miller was a doctoral student at St. John Fisher College.  After receiving the Internal Review Board’s (IRB) approval, Miller selected 10 African American female participants.  The list was compiled by asking fellow MHS administrators for a “list of black females that met the preliminary requirements for participation” in his study. 

Participant Recruitment and Criteria

After the initial list was comprised, Miller verified the girls’ age (The females had to be at least 18 years old.  Miller wanted them to have a “vast array of experiences in high school that they were able to reflect on the different experiences, which have caused conflict or interruptions to their educational process by losing valuable learning time due to suspension.), gender, ethnicity, and at least one suspension due to conflict.  The participants also needed to have an active Facebook account, and they had to be willing to share private information from that account. The teens, also, were selected because they had been suspended for engaging in at least one “aggressive altercation” (55).

The participants received a letter that provided them with an overview of the study;  the date/time of the initial meeting; and their interview schedule.  During the first meeting, the black teens were given a “one-page document summarizing the study and participant expectations” (56).  They were asked to complete a “demographic profile sheet,” which was used to provide Miller with a “baseline understanding of the participants’ Internet usage habits” (56).  Questions ranged from:  the amount of time that they spent online; favorite social networking activity; verbal argument at school due to Facebook; and physical altercation at school due to Facebook (57).

Although the students were 18, Miller asked that they inform their parents about their participation in the project.  If necessary, the students were able to receive counseling from the school’s Student Family Support Center (SFSC).  After each interview, a SFSC was asked to speak with the student.


Data Collection

Dr. Miller collected data via four techniques:
·         Demographic profile sheets
·         Semi-structured interviews
·         Field notes
·         Document collection
The interviews were conducted over a two week period during the students’ summer vacation. The session lasted for one hour, and none of the participants needed a follow-up question; all questions were adequately answered during the initial interview.  The questions were open-ended, and they were designed to have the them engage in discourse that highlighted their interests in social media.  Miller ensured that the questions did “not ignite any old situations” (58).

Student Interview Questions

·         Describe your online “Swagger/Identity.”
·         How is your online Identity or “Swagger” different than your swagger at school?
·         Are you popular online?
·         How do you know you are popular online?
·         In what ways has Social Networking increased your popularity at school?
·         How does popularity online and being popular in school relate?  What are there typical comments you get on your page?
·         In what ways are Facebook friends different than real world friends?
·         How many of your Facebook friends do you hang with in school?
·         Describe a situation where an online conflict has caused you to lose a friendship.
·         Have you ever been made to feel bad because of something someone said about you online?  What was said?
·         During that bad experience, how did you react to what was being said online?
·         How did you react when you saw the person in school?
·         Have you ever said anything hurtful to someone online?  What was said?
·         How did they react to what you said online?
·         How did they react to you in school?
·         What do you do when you get publically disrespected “punked” embarrassed online?
·         Can you describe a situation at school that caused you to get into a fight or an argument?
·         Can you describe a situation at school that caused you to get into a fight or an argument?
·         Have you ever been afraid to come to school because of something that happened online?  What made you afraid, and what were the outcomes of the situation?
·         What role has Social Networking played in your high school experience (e.g. Identity, Popularity, Relationships, Conflicts, and Suspensions, etc. . )?

Study’s Limitations

There were limitations to the study.  Due to IRB, Miller was prohibited from collecting data from the students’ Facebook page.

Remarks

After reading Dr. Miller’s research methodology, I was left with some questions. Miller’s research process was excellent.  He selected the proper methodology for his study, and his organizational skills were noteworthy.   This process occurred during the 2008-2009 academic year.  During my last year of teaching high school (2013-2014), my students primarily used Twitter and Snapchat to communicate/cyberbully each other as well as staff.  I asked Dr. Miller about his students’ Twitter usage.  Considering that IRB did not permit him to review Facebook pages, I questioned him if he could have examined their Twitter pages, especially since most minors neglect to protect their tweets, and the public has access to them.  Although Twitter was created in 2006, it was not a popular platform for his high school students in 2008.   

Questions to consider

·         Were any of the participants biracial?  If so, did they self-identify as black, white, or biracial? Were the biracial students raised by a black or Caucasian mother?
·         How are the girls’ social media habits influenced by their female role models?  Were these women aggressive online?  If yes, were the participants mirroring their behavior?
·         Did the participants talk about teachers on Facebook?  If so, were the instructors African American?  Did they possibly write messages implying that they wanted to engage in a verbal and/or physical altercation with their instructor?
·         Were any of the participants afraid not only to come to school, but to leave home due to what happened online?  Did any of the girls live in close proximity with the person they bullied/who bullied them?