Oakland district reaches out to black boys in crisis
Suspensions at the Oakland Unified School District were out-of-balance. Black boys made up 17 percent of the student population but represented nearly 43 percent of the students who were being suspended.
To fix the problem, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights stepped in and partnered with the Office of African American Male Achievement and created a program called Manhood Development.
Both areas — the Office of African American Male Achievement and the separate program Manhood Development — are the first in the country to specifically target the needs of black boys.
Because so many black boys are in crisis and hitting indicators that should alarm any school principal, the school district figured that something should be done.
To combat some of the problems that black boys face, the office has introduced ideas that are meant to stimulate the minds and feelings of each young man who enters the program.
Students are met with uplifting notes that call them kings and are introduced to the notion of brotherhood and what it truly means to be a brother. They are taught that college can be an option for their futures and how to set expectations that aim higher than their current state.
Students are also held to held to higher academic standards and are given the opportunity to take classes that meet the guidelines of the University of California.
But maybe more than anything, teachers are faced with breaking the chains of negativity bred by through more than one generation.
So many black boys who will move through the program may be the lone person in the home with a job, or already be selling drugs or witnessing narcotic transactions and other crimes. To break that cycle is hard and will take years to render down.
Even so, this program is good for the city of Oakland and even better for the black boys in it. Navigating a system that’s built against them is tough to do. This program teaches them how to do so, and even better, how to become a man.