School system with blinders ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

October 12, 1992

What planet is school Superintendent C. Berry Carter on? Two-thirds of black male high school students are said to be ineligible to play sports because they can't meet new minimum academic requirements, and he barely seems to care.

Anyone who's remotely interested in education ought to be outraged by what was released at last week's school board meeting -- figures showing that 60 percent of black male high school students and 70 percent of freshman black males can't keep the 2.0 average required for sports participation. Never mind whether they ought to be able to play football. A whole segment of the student population is failing. Does anyone believe that kids who can't do better than Ds and Es are coming out of school prepared for college? For the work force? For anything?

Here's one topic that school board members, who typically spend an hour debating what kind of chalk to buy, should have talked about into the dead of the night. Instead, they spent about 10 minutes -- maybe 15 -- expressing shock and concern before moving on to comparatively unimportant questions about the new sports eligibility requirements. To their credit, some board members admitted afterward they made a mistake in dropping the matter so quickly.

But Mr. Carter refused to acknowledge a problem exists. He surmised that the figures on black males -- compiled by his own staff -- were too high. Then he returned to the subject of sports, saying what we really need are more buses for after-school events.

This is denial, plain and simple. The GPA figures aren't the first sign that black students are in trouble. Three reports have been done in the last 1 1/2 years showing fewer blacks in gifted and talented programs, lower test scores for blacks and more expulsions and suspensions. "They sat on the shelf," board member Vincent Leggett says of the reports. "The attitude was, 'So what? Is that really news? It's an old story and an old song.' " That doesn't mitigate the system's responsibility toward the 8,000-plus black students it is failing.

The tepid response to the new statistics indicates that, consciously or subconsciously, Anne Arundel educators are writing off black students. That's inexcusable. And in a school system that's clamping down on athletes to show how serious it is about academics, it is hypocritical as well.

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