A series of school trips planned for third-grade students in South Bend, Indiana, have resulted in a debate over race relations in the community.
As part of a plan to encourage African American students to think about going to college, the students are visiting three community colleges in the district over the coming week. However, the trips are only open to African Americans.
Parents reacted to news of the field trips by raising concerns about the impact they could have on race relations. “We should be able to do everything together and not separate,” parent Charles Yost said. Another suggested that it “creates a double standard.”
The South Bend Community Schools Corporation (SBCSC) noted that the trips had not been intended to be discriminatory or exclude anyone. Dr. G. David Moss, director of African American student/parent services at SBCSC, pointed out that his goal in arranging the trips had been to promote higher education among the African American population, which is statistically less likely to attend college.
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In an email to parents detailing what the college visits would involve, Moss explained that the students would be given the opportunity to meet with college students. He hoped that they would serve as role models for the third graders, making the kids think more positively about their futures.
Moss also said that he had just been trying to do his job. “I was hired to look at the issues facing African American kids in the South Bend Community School Corporation, and my job specifically says that I need to develop programs and develop strategies to help these kids and their families become more successful academically,” he told ABC57.
This hasn’t stopped questions from been raised, with even some parents whose children will benefit from the trips making their concerns clear. “I feel like all kids should be going,” parent Deirdra Mullings said.