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In his speech Tuesday, President Obama talked about the need for students to stay in school and strive for excellence. In Arlington and several other Texas school systems, staying in school has been a big issue. Only 61 percent of Hispanic students graduated in the class of 2007, and 68 percent of Black students in that same year. Whites had a graduation rate of 96 percent, according to the most recent data available from the Texas Education Agency.
When the local NAACP first learned that Arlington ISD would not be showing the speech live, the organization issued a statement asking that it be made available to all students.
“They (the school district) had a chance to do the right thing, and they did not. People have been asking me what they should do. I tell them they have a right to call the school board, attend meetings and call the superintendent to let them know how they feel,” Sibert said.
Although Arlington ISD has a racially diverse population of about 29,000 students, it still is plagued by cultural insensitivity, Sibert said.
About 60 percent of the students in the district are either Black or Hispanic, according to reports submitted to the Texas Education Agency. But the administrators who lead the system and the teachers in the classroom don’t reflect the general makeup of the student body, Sibert said. And there are no Blacks on the elected school board.
The NAACP has been involved for several years, working with the school system to stress the importance of equitable representation at all levels in the district, Sibert said.
The Rev. William Dwight McKissic of Arlington’s Cornerstone Baptist Church had publicly questioned the school system’s decision not to show the Obama speech live last week. His church opened its doors to parents who wanted to bring their children to watch the broadcast. Since then, McKissic indicated on his website, he has talked with the superintendent and can now accept his apology.
“Many of Arlington’s citizens, of all colors and political persuasions, were hurt and disappointed by the decision to not allow AISD schools to show President Obama’s education address Tuesday morning during the live broadcast hour. It is our prayer that Mr. McCullough’s apology will heal the hurt and that the Arlington community will forgive him so that we can put this matter behind us for the sake of our children,” McKissic said in his prepared statement.
“We do not impugn racist motives, attitude or intention to Mr. McCullough’s decision to not show the Obama speech,” McKissic said. “However, we believe his decision to not show the speech reflected a lack of cultural awareness, sensitivity, abandonment of the historic principle of public schools’ commitment to political neutrality, and political partisanship.”
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