Orlie Reid attacked unfairly in storyFrom: Judith N...

READERS WRITE

September 27, 1992

Orlie Reid attacked unfairly in story

From: Judith N. Neall

Annapolis

I could not let the Aug. 30 [letter], "Pupils need advocates, not enablers," by Phil Greenfield go unanswered.

I can only speculate on Mr. Greenfield's motivation to personally attack someone he does not know. Perhaps it was to ease his discomfort with the suggestions that minority students often do not receive equal treatment within our school system. The presence of the Committee for Education Equality forces all of us to confront the status quo and our own commitment to fairness.

As a white person, I can understand the tendency to become defensive when faced with charges of discrimination. We want to believe that unequal outcomes for people reflect shortcomings within the individuals rather than any conscious or unconscious ill will from the community because then we are absolved from responsibility to affect change.

In defense of himself and others, Mr. Greenfield exaggerated and misrepresented what Orlie Reid has been saying in a sarcastic, condescending and self-satisfied tone.

Anyone who knows Orlie Reid and his work with children knows that he would not condone "mindless thuggery" or suggest to anyone that you are "a powerless, hapless victim and anything you do, no matter how harmful, is excusable since everything is beyond your control," as Mr. Greenfield suggested.

In his years of work with juvenile offenders, Orlie has gained the respect and cooperation of juvenile court judges to ensure that the youngsters he is working with are held accountable for their behavior while at the same time offering the support and encouragement they need to make changes.

I cannot count the times I have heard him say, "Every human being needs to know that he is someone of worth and dignity." Only when we come from this understanding can we begin to help people rise above their circumstances.

It is interesting that Mr. Greenfield credits other members of the Committee for Education Equity with preaching the gospel of success -- "self-discipline, self-reliance, self-esteem, dignity, a respect for knowledge and achievement -- and singles out Orlie Reid for his scornful attack.

Mr. Greenfield must not know, or chooses to ignore, that Orlie Reid's life has been dedicated to educational excellence as a classroom teacher, consultant for school systems throughout the south, dean of Black Student Affairs at Duke University, founder of COBRAS of Washington, D. C., and co-founder of Individual and Family Concerns Inc. (IFC) of Annapolis.

During better economic times, as an advocate for children and families, he obtained funding for the COBRAS [Cooperation, Obedience, Bravery, Respect, Achievement and Success] program for inner-city children in D.C.

Under IFC, with the help of his 14-year-old son, Orlie Jr., and another youngster, Pernell Jackson, Orlie Reid has brought COBRAS to Annapolis in the form of a karate class for children in a public housing community. Two nights a week, all last year (for no compensation) they taught the children self-discipline, self-reliance, self-esteem, dignity and respect for knowledge and achievement.

Also under the aegis of IFC and again without pay, Mr. Reid worked successfully with Annapolis Elementary School, Central Elementary School and others to prevent specific young black children from being "thrown away" (expelled) from first and second grades. He provided after-school tutoring, group counseling, parent support and on-site support. . . .

If Orlie Reid can make a difference in these children's behavior, then I have to agree with him that with the proper understanding and support, the school system should be able to do it too.

Orlie is only one person with limited resources. The kind of work he does requires insight and commitment and does not represent a "quick fix." The school system would do well to take advantage of his willingness to be involved.

With regard to the 15 youngsters expelled last year for fighting and injuring a staff person and the principal, Mrs. Webb, (why did Mr. Greenfield feel compelled to mention that she is black?), Orlie Reid met with others at the school and decided something must be done to reduce tensions and look for solutions for all parties involved.

With the cooperation of other black leaders, he established Wednesday night group meetings at which the youngsters involved were allowed to air their feelings and differences in an atmosphere of respect and acceptance.

As a group, they signed a truce to end the fighting, and so far there have been no further incidents. True to form, Orlie went to court with those involved and suggested that the judge order them to continue meeting with him on Wednesday nights during their probation.

All the youngsters continue to meet weekly as Orlie, a trained psychotherapist, donates his time and expertise to try to build self-discipline, self-reliance, self-esteem, dignity and respect for knowledge and achievement.

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