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Attorney Michelle Laubin Addresses Complex Question, “Why Are We Still Failing African American And Latino Male Students?” At CABE CAPSS Convention


Reprinted with permission from the January 2018 CABE Journal
Article by Chris Seymour, Reporter, CABE

A clinic at the 2017 CABE/CAPSS Convention sought to address a complex question: “Where Have We Gone Wrong? Why Are We Still Failing African American and Latino Male Students?”

The session was led by a team from New Haven Public Schools, including Fair Haven Middle School Principal Heriberto Cordero, Supervisor of Youth Development and Engagement Kermit Carolina, and Director of Students Services Typhanie Jackson, as well as Attorney Michelle Laubin of law firm Berchem Moses PC.

“Why are we discussing African American and Latino males?” asked Carolina. “We know the reason- African American and Latino males are at the bottom of every negative statistical category you can think of… so we really need to unpack this and that’s why we are here today.”

Laubin explained that Connecticut’s system of town/city boundaries being the boundaries of the local school district-established via a state statute written in 1919-often isolates racial groups and perpetuates stereotypes.

“If you live in the suburbs in Connecticut, chances are you are living in a majority white town,” she said. “And, if you live in an urban area, chances are we are looking at a predominately African American/Latino community.”

Living in these pockets means “we don’t get to know each other, we don’t share schools, we don’t share communities, we don’t share churches,” observed Laubin, and racial stereotypes “never get exploded, never get overruled by our experience, so it leads to the perpetuation of implicit bias.”

She noted that efforts to diversify schools-including busing students, magnet and charter schools- haven’t worked and “radical” solutions were needed to tackle this problem, including potentially making each county its own school system.

“If you think about how that would work, every urban area would have the resources of the entire county-so Bridgeport would have the resources of Fairfield County; Hartford would have the resources of Hartford County,” she said.

Jackson touched on the importance of “creating a cultural competence system,” and the need for cultural competence training, in order to ensure black and Latino students aren’t left behind.

“And look at that talent management strategy because in order to engage in restorative practices … you often have to have a restorative lens,” she stated.

Carolina and Cordero talked about the success of Hillhouse High School’s Freshman Academy.

“I’m a big proponent of a freshman academy,” said Carolina. “You lose most of your male students- particularly black and Latinos-in 9th grade … you see suspensions, absenteeism…”

He continued, “We felt that to change the culture of the building, you start with the 9th grade and work your way up.”

Changing that culture involved hiring new teachers “because we wanted energetic new people with ideas,” added Carolina.

Cordero noted the academy’s success could be attributed to strong bonds built between teachers and students.

“The teachers really build strong relationships” and “that was the key to success in this model,” he said.

Reprinted with permission from the January 2018 CABE Journal. By Chris Seymour, Reporter, CABE