Black Parent Student Support Group will teach kids how to 'beat the system' during forum Saturday
Beating the system: to outmaneuver or to get what you want by not following the usual means.
Although the phrase “beating the system” can at times take on a negative connotation, on Saturday, it will represent a positive step toward educating students and parents about avoiding scenarios that lead to suspensions and expulsions.
Ann Arbor Public Schools District-wide Black Parent Student Support Group will host a forum called "Beating the System" from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Peace Neighborhood Center.
In December, Ann Arbor released its most recent suspension/expulsion data, which showed that, of the nearly 1,200 students suspended at the district’s middle and high schools in 2010-11, 42.2 percent were black and 20.5 percent were classified as “other,” a group district officials said included many Hispanics.
For comparison, 33.9 percent of the suspended students were white, when 52.3 percent of the district’s total population last year was classified as Caucasian.
Johnson said Saturday’s event will be interactive, with scenarios for parents and their children to role play and act out.
“We want to have different scenes so kids can practice what to do, and if you decide to do ‘A’ instead of ‘B’ to show what the consequences would be,” Johnson said.
In today’s hyper-sensitive society where school officials must be keenly aware of bullying and student’s emotional states, sometimes an afterschool or noon-hour fight can lead to assault and battery charges, he said.
“When we were in high school, you could fight and make up and that was it. Times have changed with bullying and the press that it gets.”
The program also will educate parents and students about the resources that are available to them if they do find themselves facing suspension or expulsion.
The Ann Arbor Public Schools police liaisons from Huron and Pioneer high schools will attend the event, as will representatives of the Dispute Resolution Center in Ypsilanti and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The police liaisons are really a great support system for keeping your kid out of trouble,” Johnson said, adding the idea behind having outside groups participate in the forum will help strengthen the relationships between the parents and students and those who can assist them.
The Black Parent Student Support Group is hoping for 150 to 200 people to attend. Johnson said the advocacy group took a different approach to advertising for the event than it usually does.
It relied less on email and, instead, members canvassed neighborhoods with fliers and knocked on doors to personally invite people in the areas where they felt there would be a vested interest or need for parents and students to attend.
Johnson said the impact has been remarkable and the people and other African American organizations in the community have really “answered the charge.”
“This is obviously a very important issue for this area so we are encouraged by all the support and interest,” he said.
The biggest thing for parents and students to remember when faced with a suspension or an expulsion is to have an adult advocate present when the kids are scheduled to meet with school officials, Johnson said.
He explained even though a child may not want to tell their parent about the trouble they are in, they should tell someone because often a kid trying to handle it on his or her own without an advocate can cause more harm than good.
Saturday’s forum also will break out into discussions targeted for students and parents separately. Paul Johnson, director of the Peace Neighborhood Center, and Brandon Jackson, adviser of Huron High School's Rising Scholars program, will lead these sessions.
For more information about Saturday’s event, call 734-883-1889 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.