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Why We Need More Black Teachers

By Dameion Fowler

There is a stark lack of diversity in hiring for Horry County Schools when it comes to teachers and paraprofessionals.

In a school district that includes an African-American student population of roughly 20 percent, according to documents obtained via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the percentage of Black teachers is at approximately 6 percent (180 out of 3020 teachers). This leaves the ratio of Black students to Black teachers at 55:1, compared to a white teacher to white student ratio of 10:1.

From information obtained from Horry County Schools via FOIA Request:

Between 7/1/2014- 3/16/2017, Horry County Schools received 3,934 job applications for professional positions from persons self-identifying as African American. During this time, the District hired 749 persons for professional positions, of which 44 identified themselves as African American.

These numbers are a stark reminder that HCS still has far to go when it comes to the racial diversity of the people to whom our community gives the responsibility of educating future generations.

Why do Black students need Black teachers?

There is overwhelming evidence that indicates the psycho-social, academic, and cultural necessity of Black students having a Black teacher. Based on the research:

A. Black K-3rd grade students assigned to a same race teacher show marked improvement on standardized tests and Black students also have more favorable perceptions of those teachers.  Additionally, the assignment of Black teachers in grades 3-5 reduces the probability of Black male students dropping out of high school. Finally, exposure to one Black teacher in grades 3-5 increases the probability of Black students attending college.

B. Black students tend to do better at reading and are less likely to be subjected to exclusionary discipline (suspension, expulsion, discipline, etc.) when placed with a Black teacher.

Additionally, one alarming paper reveals that Black boys are viewed by white society as less innocent and older than white boys of the same age. This has massive implications regarding the persistence of racial disparities of disciplinary actions in the classrooms.

So, it should become clear that the exposure of Black students to Black teachers is not only an imperative for the triumph of racial justice in one of Horry County’s major institutions, it is also an imperative for the adequate socialization and education of her Black children.

The deleterious effects of this lack of racial diversity are further compounded by the fact that HCS’s human resources department has been less than forthcoming with a plan to increase diversity among the teaching staff. I have attempted to maintain a correspondence with the HR department regarding its plans to bring in more Black teachers. And, to my chagrin, I have found human resources woefully lacking in its efforts.

We must demand accountability from the Horry County school district as to why it has failed to address this issue and as to why it has failed to present any adequate plans to ameliorate its harmful effects.

If the Horry County School District refuses to implement a plan to increase the number of Black teachers, people of good conscience must be willing to commit to action to persuade HCS to implement such a plan.

Dameion B. Fowler is a father, activist, and founder of PISB Publications. He has worked nearly a decade on educational issues, advocating with students as well as teachers.
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