Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Middle School Election Results Held Up For Winners Not Diverse, Principal Says


Diversity or democracy?

This has been the question raised partly in protest of a middle school principal's delaying the recently held student election, saying the winners are not diverse enough.

It is also a question that has opened discussions on the influence of race/race issues in politics - in schools and outside.

When San Francisco middle school principal Lena Van Haren saw which kids on her campus had been elected to the student council, she was disturbed at the lack of diversity among the winners. There were no Latino or black candidates chosen for the top four spots. - Read more at:

The incident happened at Everett Middle School in San Francisco’s Mission District. The voting was held Oct. 10, but the principal sent an email to parents on Oct. 14 saying the results would not be released because the candidates that were elected as a whole do not represents the diversity that exists at the school…. - Read more at
  
According to the above report by The Washington Post, school principal Haren said that her school consists of 80 percent students of color and 20 percent white students, yet the results of the election did not show enough representation of the student population. “That is concerning to me because as principal I want to make sure all voices are heard from all backgrounds,” Van Haren said…., the WP continues.

Reports also say this action angered many students and parents, and there are those who did not agree with that particular move by the principal, who according to reports eventually announce the election results on Monday after pressure from parents and the district administration.

Opinion writers also disagree with the prinicpal's action, including the writer of the WP article, Eugene Volokh: And exactly what “learning experience” would the children get this way, whether about racial tolerance or democracy?
I’m inclined to say, by the way, that attempting to “add positions in an effort to be more equal” by (presumably) filling them with children of a particular race would likely violate the Equal Protection Clause and federal civil rights law. 
  
From a Fox News article: "The problem, it appears, is that the principal didn’t like who got the most votes. In other words – too many white kids got elected.[...]“This is complex, but as a parent and a principal, I truly believe it behooves us to be thoughtful about our next steps here so we have a diverse student council that is truly representative of all voices at Everett,” she wrote in a message to moms and dads.
So the principal seems to think that boys and girls should vote for representatives based on the color of their skin and not the content of their character?"

The same article above also mentions a student's reaction: “I feel like it is disrespectful to all the people who were running,” student Sebastian Kaplan told television station KRON. “The whole school voted for those people, so it is not like people rigged the game, but in a way – now it is kind of being rigged.”

From one parent, as reported by the SFGate article above, reacted: “The thing that’s so frustrating to me, as a parent and an engaged citizen, is you release the results and then you form committees,” David said. “How can you say, ‘In the name of social justice, we’re going to withhold election results’?”

Another parent says that school officials should have decided, prior to the election and students’ campaigns, how they wanted to ensure the election results would be more diverse. [...]“So if we can’t teach them the right way of how it’s supposed to work, then we are really letting our kids down,” Gutierrez said. “My heart goes out to the kids because they’re confused still about what’s the issue.” - Read more here

It seems like from the different news curated above, the principal's action -- which she resorted to if only to highlight the value of diversity -- is deemed bad for democracy, bad for the students, bad for school politics.

Here are some questions to ponder. We invite our readers to share their thoughts.

Now, is this diversity working at all?

In the business world, and other sectors of society, diversity is already being realized as a good value to pursue, because the pursuit of diversity promotes inclusion, thus help in the eradication of discrimination of any form.

Why do you think the principal's intention to have an elected student council as diverse as the school's student population stirred negative reactions?
  
What makes people feel strongly against diversity?
What are some ways to show diversity's working in a democracy?

This article is the 1st of a series on the topic, "Is Diversity Working?"

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