Miami-Dade schools like MAST Academy are failing to address persistent racism on campus, the president of the NAACP South Dade chapter said this week. Harold Ford, an educator himself, has requested a meeting with school board Chair Mari Tere Rojas to discuss what he sees as problems at MAST and other public schools.
“We’re not doing what we need to do to get to the root of that issue so that we can extract it and hopefully build a better school – so that we can build better communities,” Harold Ford said on the Anti-Social podcast on Thursday.
A MAST student in May filed an administrative complaint to the Miami Dade Public Schools Office of Civil Rights Compliance about comments allegedly made by a teacher and administrator. The teacher in question retired last month as the investigation continues, officials said.
At least five current and former students have now come forward about racist remarks, graffiti and other incidents at MAST.
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Ford knows education. He has been a teacher or a school site administrator for some 25 years until recently taking a leave of absence. He helped establish the NAACP’s South Dade branch in 2019 and has been active in other organizations that help young people.
Reports of rampant racism at MAST, a prestigious magnet school, first came to the forefront in 2018 when a black student wrote a 3,000-word essay about her experiences. Ford said the next year when the South Dade chapter was established, the NAACP started receiving complaints from other schools, as well.
“We immediately began to get communications. I got copies of tweets that were sent about all of this discussion – not just MAST but a number of schools,” Ford said.
He said there were also complaints emanating from New World School of the Arts and Coral Reef High School. “So there is a problem within Miami-Dade County schools,” he said.
Ford said he has reached out to School Board Chair Mari Tere Rojas to set up a meeting, DATE SET?.
Ford also discussed another big race and education issue — last week’s U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling finding the use of affirmative action in college admissions unconstitutional.
“What we’re seeing is basically the resegregation of education,” Ford said. “Basically, there’s some groups that want to break us apart.”
He said one immediate solution in wake of two rulings would be to rid higher education of legacy admissions where students are allowed – despite grades – to attend prestigious universities because a parent or relative graduated from the institution and gave a sizable donation.
Ford also proposed an admission process where race, gender and zip codes are redacted from applications so that the university can only decide admissions on merit.
But when it comes to addressing racism on the local level in public schools, Ford said there is only so much an education system can do. The real work starts in the home.
“Basically, the culture of the school is indicative of the community that it’s in,” he said.