Mississippi middle school memo: Whites only for class president this year. What were they thinking?

When I read a poster’s comment about a school in Mississippi allowing only white kids to be class president in middle school, I had to read more and share it with you. Apparently, the school policy in Nettleton, Miss., began as an effort to rotate class officers among the races. I will give them the benefit of the doubt that this made some sense 30 years ago to ensure that black kids — who are in the minority in the community — held elected office.

But it sure doesn’t made sense in 2010.

If those reports are correct, I assume that this was the white kids’ year to run the show as students were given a memo earlier this month stating that class presidents in grades 6, 7 and 8 must be white. It also called for the vice presidents in grades 7 and 8 to be white, while the sixth-grade vice president would be black.

I have to wonder why parents haven’t risen up before now to challenge this outmoded policy.  I am not sure if parents weren’t aware or simply weren’t overly concerned with racial rotations in class officers at the middle school. (I am not sure if  students cared, either, as I haven’t found too many kids getting excited over middle school class elections. Running for class office seems to have fallen out of favor with a lot of students.)

I also think it is odd that the superintendent’s statement says that this system is unfair because “classifications of Caucasian and African-American no longer reflect our entire student body.” I would argue that using any racial or ethnic classifications to limit who can run for student government in any given year is a wrongheaded policy.  I still remain puzzled why the change only came with outside pressure and not from within this community itself.

The good news is that this policy was changed today.

Here is the statement on the Nettleton Middle School site:

After being notified of a grievance regarding upcoming student elections at Nettleton Middle School, research was conducted that evidenced that the current practices and procedures for student elections have existed for over 30 years. It is the belief of the current administration that these procedures were implemented to help ensure minority representation and involvement in the student body. It is felt the intent of these election procedures was to ensure African-American representation in each student office category through an annual rotation basis.

It is our hope and desire that these practices and procedures are no longer needed to help ensure minority representation and involvement. Furthermore, the Nettleton School District acknowledges and embraces the fact that we are growing in ethnic diversity and that the classifications of Caucasian and African-American no longer reflect our entire student body.

Therefore, beginning immediately, student elections at Nettleton School District will no longer have a classification of ethnicity. It is our intent that each student has equal opportunity to seek election for any student office. Future student elections will be monitored to help ensure that this change in process and procedure does not adversely affect minority representation in student elections.

Thank you Superintendent
Russell Taylor

Here is the NBC/MSNBC story, including updates that the school board voted today to change the rules:

The school board in Nettleton, Miss., voted Friday to reverse its policy under which race determined whether a candidate could run for class positions, including president.

According to a memo sent home with students last week, African-American students could not run for class president in Nettleton Middle School this school year. However, the board voted at an emergency session Friday to drop that policy, according to Craig Ford, a reporter with the NBC News affiliate WTVA, who attended the meeting.

According to the district’s statement, the practice had been in use for more than 30 years with whites and blacks rotating among offices annually.

“It is the belief of the current administration that these procedures were implemented to help ensure minority representation and involvement in the student body,” Superintendent Russell Taylor said in a statement.

“Therefore, beginning immediately, student elections at Nettleton School District will no longer have a classification of ethnicity. It is our intent that each student has equal opportunity to seek election for any student office.”

Scrutiny of the practice occurred after Brandy Springer, a mother of four children, contacted blogger Suzy Richardson, founder and editor of the blog mixedandhappy.com.

“My [eighth-grade] daughter came home from[Nettleton] school telling me that she wanted to try out for the school reporter, but it is only open to black students,” Springer wrote Richardson. “They told her ‘she should run for class president, that was open to only white students.’”

The policy was also reported by Gawker and by NBC News, which obtained a copy of the controversial guidelines. Read the original memo

The memo said that only white students could be president of the school’s eighth grade, while only black students could be vice president.

In seventh grade, whites were the only ones who could be both president and vice president, while the only position a black student at Nettleton could run for in sixth grade was that of the class reporter.

Springer told msnbc.com on Friday she was “shocked” when she first saw the memo, and has since moved her family out of Nettleton — a small town of around 2,000 that Springer said is itself geographically segregated on racial lines — to nearby Plantersville, Miss.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, close to 67 percent of Nettleton’s population is white and 32.5 percent is black. In 2000, only 0.3 of the town’s residents identified themselves as being of mixed race.

According to an excerpt from the school’s handbook, homecoming positions are also divided by race – black and white, with no mention of other races.

A note recently handed out to students outlining criteria for elections says that class presidents in grades 6, 7 and 8 must be white. It also says the vice presidents in grades 7 and 8 will be white, while the sixth-grade vice president will be black.

70 comments Add your comment

rh

August 27th, 2010
5:45 pm

Where does this put Latino, Arab, Asian, and multi-racial people? Can they reserve Treasurer or Recording Secretary for us?

model ourselves after high performers

August 27th, 2010
5:53 pm

What's Next ?

August 27th, 2010
5:54 pm

What’s next, blacks drinking from any water fountain they want, sitting anywhere on the bus, eating in any restaurant they want? Come on.
If God had meant for the races to commingle he would have Pat Robertson tell us.

Bongo

August 27th, 2010
5:59 pm

Obviously this was instituted, when blacks were a minority, to insure that thay had equal share at being class officers. The school back then was majority white. Ms Downey took this story at what she considered face value. The story infers that the school is still majority white. Would you rather have blacks and others be frozen out in this day and age just because thay are in the minority and may not garner the votes to win? Will they now – hollar and scream racism – cause blacks or other ethnic groups do not get the votes to win. Maybe the policy needs to be changed or re-worded, but not to the detriment of the kids in the ethnic groups finding few if any class leader positions won by them.

AnthonyShorter

August 27th, 2010
6:08 pm

As an African American, I say: “If it works for them, it works for me!

oldtimer

August 27th, 2010
6:11 pm

I would imagine most other races or ethhnic groups are not really represented in this town. Not all towns are very diverse. Where I live now has less than 1 percent Asians, 10 persent Latinos, and 4 persent Black Americans. After Atlanta, it is weird!

36 years in education

August 27th, 2010
6:16 pm

This is a crazy, crazy story!

Lee

August 27th, 2010
6:23 pm

Well, well, well. It appears the politically correct tried once again their hand in social engineering, only to have it slapped.

My guess, since this town and county is majority white, blacks will not get elected to office. So, school officials will merely “count the votes” to ensure blacks get elected.

It’s the same way they do at our local high school for Homecoming Queen. They basically rotate every year between black and white. Of course, they’re not stupid enough to write the policy down on paper. It’s all “unofficial,” dontchaknow, and they will look you in the eye and deny what they are doing.

The only solution is to segregate schools again.

V for Vendetta

August 27th, 2010
6:29 pm

Um, is anyone surprised by this? Just wondering.

Remember: these people can vote. Scary, huh?

catlady

August 27th, 2010
6:32 pm

Well, if the black kids are a definite minority, it might be their only chance to win a position. So I kinda understand it. Although at my high school, in 1969, one of about 6 black kids (in the whole school of 1400) was elected a class officer, so it can happen. This girl was one of the first black kids to come to our school, and she was well-respected by pretty much all the white kids. Don’t know how the black kids felt about her, but she seemed to be popular. She has been raised rather middle-class (her mom was a teacher at the “black” school) and she made a real effort to fit into her situation, which could not have been easy.

V for Vendetta

August 27th, 2010
6:39 pm

catlady,

No. Don’t understand it. Make not mistake about it: Either way, this is a ridiculous issue. If viewed in terms of some sort of racist agenda (and, let’s be honest, we’re talking about Mississippi here), it makes no sense. If viewed in terms of some sort of Affirmative Action, it is equally abhorent. If race is still such an issue down there that a student can’t be elected based on his virtues and instead has to be reduced to some sort of easily definable group, then I don’t . . .

Oh, wait.

Nevermind.

another comment

August 27th, 2010
6:54 pm

My child is going to boo hoo when she realizes that she is not going to be choosen prom queen at her high school because blue eyed blondes are in the minority and the black girls will make sure someone like her won’t win. Where as another type of school she would be a top contender.

another comment

August 27th, 2010
6:58 pm

This why sadlly there should be maybe a white, a black and a latino, home coming queen. The black girls will never vote for my blue eyed blonde daughter. So Sad. They have already told her that she can’t date the mixed race football, base ball players, who have been raised by white mothers and have been brought up white. They just don’t get it these boys don’t want a ghetto girl, they want someone like their mother.

granny godzilla

August 27th, 2010
7:00 pm

we must convert from capitalism to socialism

Maureen Downey

August 27th, 2010
7:12 pm

@another comment, I am not sure why anyone would tell anyone else who they can date. Nor do I understand why anyone would care what other people said.

catlady

August 27th, 2010
7:13 pm

V: not agreeing with it, but understand it. School stuff don’t want trouble, so they tried this. I hope it was that simple (minded).

Fred

August 27th, 2010
7:13 pm

Gee Maureen. Did I miss your column LAST year when the kid elected had to be BLACK?

How typical in a nation that tolerates the racism of BET, the Trumpet Awards, Miss Black America, etal……………..

rh: Only Blacks have any racial issues. The rest of us are just screwed and it’s ok.

Fred

August 27th, 2010
7:15 pm

granny godzilla

August 27th, 2010
7:00 pm

we must convert from capitalism to socialism
+++++++++++++

And if it was not siad tongue in cheek ladies and gentlemen, HERE we have the idiot post of the decade. Name ONE society that has prospered under socialism……….

Maureen Downey

August 27th, 2010
7:17 pm

@Fred, If it came to light last year and that was a black year, I would have also posted a blog on it. Where does this nuttiness stop? Do we then have one year where girls run and then boys the next?
Maureen

Fred

August 27th, 2010
7:18 pm

V for Vendetta: Have you actually spent any time in Mississippi or do you just post from stereotype?

Mikey D

August 27th, 2010
7:19 pm

Unless something has changed in the past few years since I left GAE and joined PAGE (strictly a financial decision, as PAGE does absolutely nothing to help teachers…), GAE still has a race-based preference system where 1 out of every 3 GAE presidents MUST be a black candidate. You would hope that we have come farther than this, but apparently some still think we need these quotas.

Fred

August 27th, 2010
7:19 pm

Maureen, thank you for the comment. I see your reasoning and agree with it. I feel the same way.

Fred

August 27th, 2010
7:22 pm

Mikey D: I’m really going to come off as a hypocrite with my next comment based on my others but………

Yeah, we do need quota’s still. If you want my explanation of that I’ll give it to you AFTER I go to Longhorns and get that steak that I can’t stop thinking about…………

catlady

August 27th, 2010
7:22 pm

I mean school staff

Grace

August 27th, 2010
7:42 pm

I think it’s a great idea. Let’s have a gay prez year, too! Vote for a lez for prez!! Comfortable shoes only, girls. I LOVE IT!

Well....

August 27th, 2010
7:48 pm

It’s kind of like set-asides for contracts. Only this time whites were the beneficiaries and there was no money involved.

HA HA

August 27th, 2010
7:48 pm

Get a white girl while she is 18-25 otherwise she looks old after that!

Grace

August 27th, 2010
7:50 pm

HA HA…or a man before 30 when he starts developing his beer gut

Atl Resident

August 27th, 2010
7:58 pm

What’s Next ?

August 27th, 2010
5:54 pm
What’s next, blacks drinking from any water fountain they want, sitting anywhere on the bus, eating in any restaurant they want? Come on.
If God had meant for the races to commingle he would have Pat Robertson tell us.

All I have to say is whoever the hell wrote this comment what the hell is your damn problem.

Grace

August 27th, 2010
8:00 pm

ATL resident – let me acquaint you with sarcasm. I’ll break it down for you. What’s Next is pro equality, and anti-religious bigots like PR. Simple enough?

wolf

August 27th, 2010
8:06 pm

When a friend posted this information on a social networking site, I was convinced it was a fake story from a site like “The Onion.”
@ RH;you asked what would happen if the child is bi racial. Sit down; I read on another site that if a child is bi racial, the principal explained that the child should go by the mother’s race, because the fathers of minorities were often not in the picture anymore!!!

Lulu

August 27th, 2010
8:24 pm

Sorry but I’m going to be crude. Excuse me while I puke! The GAE has a quote system?? Then what does the E in GAE stand for? I thought it was a form of Educator or (more hypocritical yet)Educated.

Lulu

August 27th, 2010
8:25 pm

Maje that QUOTA

Lulu

August 27th, 2010
8:25 pm

Make that MAKE

Fred

August 27th, 2010
8:56 pm

LOL Third time was the charm Lulu.

Don’t worry, typo’s happen. I think they happen 33% more often when we try to correct them and 162% more often when we make fun of someone else’s typo’s………

Peter

August 27th, 2010
8:58 pm

Come on folks Mississippi is KKK country…..why question their stupidity ?

Doesn’t Mississippi lead the nation in being dumb and fat ?

Are you folks surprised ?

Real American

August 27th, 2010
9:01 pm

The ignorance of Fred is hilarious…..WAAAH! THEY HAVE BET! THEY HAVE THE TRUMPET AWARDS!!! WAAAH!!!

ROFLMAO……how ignorant is that?

Michael

August 27th, 2010
9:02 pm

You really have to troll the reports from around the country to find some story and then pretend like it is such a shame, or so sensational. Since school is back in, soon we will get stories of girls wanting to play football and, as the year goes on, boys who are not allowed to attend the prom in a dress.

Good Grief

August 27th, 2010
9:03 pm

I’m just waiting on someone to blame Glenn Beck. After all, in this post-racial society that Obama ushered in, we know that only whites are racist.

budman

August 27th, 2010
9:17 pm

Believe it or not!!! That makes perfect sense in Mississippi!!!

bootney farnsworth

August 27th, 2010
9:27 pm

did Beverly Hall used to work in Mississippi?
this sounds like her kind of stuff

bootney farnsworth

August 27th, 2010
9:28 pm

obviously Peter has never been to New Jersey.

Grace

August 27th, 2010
9:40 pm

What’s your problem with that, Michael? Oh, I know. You don’t want a girl to play better than your son. Or a boy in a dress to be more attractive than your daughter. Gotcha. That cannot be allowed. D’oh.

V for Vendetta

August 27th, 2010
10:11 pm

Fred,

Yeah, I’ve been to Mississippi. Avoid most of it when possible. Kind of like south Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. Oh, and Texas. Let’s not forget about Texas. I’ve been to them all, and they have beautiful scenery, good food, and a generally genial atmosphere towards fellow southerners (read: whites). But they are culturally bankrupt in many places, products of a bygone era determined to preserve every physical scrap of the past. (Harper Lee’s words, not mine.)

I’m a born and raised Southerner, too.

Lulu

August 27th, 2010
10:27 pm

V
Unfortumately cultural bankruptcy is far from unique to the south in this USA. Mississipi has some of the best classical Ballet seen in the US. Ever heard of a couple of writters named Faulkner and Welty? Texas has the best Medical Grad Schools and Reserarch facilities plus endowment for higher education in the country. The President of the U. of Michigan was a classmate at Statesboro, GA High School. LA is full of beautiful people but they rake the bottom on brains (watch Leno’s sidewalk interviews).Have you seen beautiful downtown Detroit, Oakland, upstate NY, Jersey (except the mountains). The country has changed a lot since Harper Lee’s childhood. Maybe it’s time for you to catch up.

Proud Black Man

August 27th, 2010
10:53 pm

Nina Simone said it the best; “Mississippi goddam.”

Could I please get an application for the New Black Panther Party? I’m starting to feel hate for every iota…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAYVaHEMK0I

Ginger

August 27th, 2010
11:19 pm

Let me let you folks in on a secret. Just because the area may be predominantly white does NOT mean that the school is. Many many people in MS either send their kids to private schools, church schools, or homeschool them, so the majority of the kids may be black. The school may be trying to make sure that the white kids in the school get a chance because they are out numbered. In the school my kids went to, it was literally 95% black, even though the area was about evenly split, so I could definitely see this being a possibility.

HStchr

August 27th, 2010
11:39 pm

This was a bad policy thirty years ago and is now. It is bad because it makes kids ever more conscious of race, and kids are generally open-minded until taught otherwise. I teach in a high school about evenly split between African-American and Caucasian, with a smattering of Latino and Middleast variations. Our officers and honorees are always mixed and we don’t have to do anything other than let kids decide. They are more often than not much less judgmental than adults are, and will be that way until we make them think otherwise. The orignial intent was genuine, but what a shortsighted way to deal with a perceived problem.

another comment

August 28th, 2010
12:05 am

Maureen, yes My daughter has clearly been told by the black girls that the mixed race star atheletes are off limits to the white girls. My daughter looked at them like they were nuts. Especailly since, the boy in particular is living in a family with two mixed boys, white mother, white step father and 3 white half-siblings.

At same school a women who was of dark chocolate color skin came up to me last week, saying she had just moved down from Ohio, and needed to make friends. She then told me that her mother was white and jewish and her father was black. But at this school the Blacks wanted her and her daughters to declare themselves black and only hang out with black. Her daughter was in AP and Honors like my child and was being hasseled for being an overacheiver. This nice lady says this is crazy, I am suppose to act like my mother doesn’t exist because my skin is dark down here. I said no you don’t. You just hang around with the white people at this school. This school unfortunately has the ghetto black wanting to fight with any black person that wants to acheive or associate with anyone else. It is crazy and still exists in 2010.

Are you serious?

August 28th, 2010
4:04 am

Race never ceases to be an issue in America. In 1970, the Black female teens at Andover’s summer academy called a meeting. They were shocked by the number of Black young men dating white females at the academy. One young lady said that she did not understand why the meeting was needed since she was dating a white guy. I never forgot that meeting and eventually married a white man myself. I have tried to be color blind as a Black woman. It was difficult as I was born in the South and we were taught not to trust white people.

Our Black female ancestors had few choices about mates during slavery and gave birth to children whose fathers were white. After the Civil War ended, this practice died out. Most People of Color married each other because race mixing was prohibited. However, it does not take a rocket scientist to see that the so called “Black people” of the United States are the original mixed race people of this nation. It didn’t start when Black men and White women started producing offspring. Black women had no voice. Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass had white fathers. Who does not call them Black? Their mothers could not get them recognized as mixed race even if they had wanted to.
Lower income Black young women are subjected to an environment that does not teach them to value themselves as beautiful young women in their own right. They are bombarded daily with images that suggest that they need long hair and paler skins to be beautiful; thus the beauty supply stores can be found on every corner in Black neighborhoods. “Weave” has made many of the Asian owners of these stores quite wealthy.
These same young women are the ones who must be trying to keep “mixed race” young men to themselves not realizing that they don’t have to do that. They are beautiful and do not have to deal in such things. They do not have to limit themselves to Black or so called mixed race men. They need an education first and exposure to life beyond poor neighborhoods.

African Americans in this country are a minority and can not escape the issue of race. Depending on whites to be color blind and to support their efforts is flawed. They have to support themselves and become economically self supportive. Black women are the poorest segment of this society and are subjected daily to the “stereotype” of being welfare moms and/ or section 8 moms who are overweight, dark in color and wear weave. Once they become empowered and throw off the shackles of a slavery legacy which bestowed upon them the status of “mules of the world” they will then stop limiting themselves to black men as mates and silly fights over them with white women. How utterly archaic.