Political Roundup: Clark Elementary School Parents Fight Back/Workplace Bullying in the National Football League

This column appears in the November 14 – 21 edition of the Hartford News… Community Update: Parents of students who attend Clark Elementary School in Hartford are fighting back against a proposed corporate takeover of the school by Achievement First, Inc.  Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the Hartford Board of Education, led by Superintendent Christina Kishimoto  are colluding to turn Clark into another charter school. Kerri Provost  (http://www.realhartford.org/) and Jonathan Pelto (http://jonathanpelto.com/) have been covering this developing story. Jonathan provided an update on Monday. 
                                                                    
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Hartford’s Clark Elementary School Community says “NO” to takeover

 
Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school company that was co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, is continuing its campaign to get the Hartford Board of Education to close the Clark Elementary School and hand it over to the charter school operator.
In response, Hartford parents, teachers and community residents are fighting back.
The blog Real Hartford has a great summary of recent events in an article entitled “N” is for No: Community Speaks Against Closure of Clark School.”
In addition, according to a press release from the coalition formed to fight off the Achievement First attack, “Scores of neighborhood residents, civil rights activists, education advocates, teachers, classroom support personnel, and legislators” joined together last week to “speak out against proposed displacement of Clark School students.” 
The event, last week, was put together by the Clark School’s Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) and School Governance Council (SGC). 
According to Clark School PTO President and SGC member Lakeisha McFarland, “Many of our parents are upset because we feel our school is being snatched from us… It’s very painful for our parents. Our kids are succeeding and they’re making it seem like they’re failing.”
Joneisha Brown, the parent liaison at the Clark School for the district’s Title I Program added, “I can’t support a scheme that breaks-up families or disrupts our children’s education… I don’t think it’s fair to the children to ignore the good things that are happening at Clark; we have a long way to go, but let us keep going.”
One of the issues Clark parents are raising is Achievement First’s apparent inability or unwillingness to provide services to Hartford’s Latino children or children who requires extra special education services.
As the following chart reveals, Achievement First has completely failed to take its fair share of students who face language barriers such as needing extra help with English.
Year Achievement First % English Language Learners Hartford % English Language Learners
2010- 2011 4.6% 17.7%
2009-2010 4.8% 17.5%
2008-2009 0 14.4%
 
 
                                                                                                                                                                
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Clark School parents have formed Clark Rising, a grassroots response to the attempted takeover by Achievement First. Clark Rising will attend the next Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, November 19 at 5:30 p.m. at Sarah J. Rawson Elementary School, 260 Holcomb Street in Hartford. Check out Kerri and Jonathan’s sites for updates. 

 
The Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, which has been well documented by the national media, is a layered issue. Workplace bullying, racism and mental health are all components of this story. 24-year-old offensive tackle John Martin has been vilified by many current and former National Football League players for his reaction to the abuse directed toward him by left guard Richie Incognito. Suddenly workplace bullying is being discussed on media outlets such as ESPN. The puzzling reaction by many Black NFL players, including Cognito’s own teammates, to Cognito’s obvious display of bigotry has been baffling. The league is once again being forced to confront the mental health issue, which has been a hot topic due to the numerous suicides of former players and the 2012 murder-suicide involving Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovann Belcher, who shot his girlfriend to death in front of their 3-month-old child and then turned the gun on himself at the Chiefs practice facility in front of coaches and a team official.
 
If Incognito demonstrated the type of behavior that has been reported during the past couple of weeks (threatening, racist texts and voicemails) toward a co-worker at a place of business, it would clearly be grounds for him being fired on the spot.  However the culture in the NFL is clearly different. An obnoxious, racist bully like Incognito is viewed as a “leader” by his teammates. Incognito was appointed to the Dolphins’ leadership council AFTER an incident where he sexually harassed and molested a Black female volunteer at the Dolphins’ annual golf tournament. A Black former Dolphins player told Greg Howard of Deadspin.com that Incognito is considered to be “Black” by his teammates. ” ‘Richie is honorary,’ one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told me today. ‘I don’t expect you to understand because you’re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It’s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you’ve experienced. A lot of things.’ ” 
 
Incognito has been ranked as the dirtiest player in the league by his peers. He has a history of incidents with players and coaches dating back to college. Do these traits qualify him for “Blackness” in the eyes of other Black Dolphins players? if so, that’s a sad commentary on their obviously warped view on what being Black means. Howard broke it down.
 
“Oh, OK. Incognito’s an honorary black guy, then. Just a misunderstanding. There’s just a slight problem, though. There’s no such thing as an honorary black person. And that’s because, after nearly half a millennium of slavery and active, institutional racism on these lands, there is no longer anything honorable about being black.
 
“We all know this, of course. Let’s run down all of the most common black stereotypes: Stupid. Lazy. Immature. Inarticulate. Impulsive. Violent. How many of these traits are good, desirable, honorable? And surely, it’s no accident that any African-American who’s smart, or rich, or articulate, or has white friends is considered white. These are all good things, traits of which whites are the sole proprietors.
 
“So maybe Incognito deserves the benefit of the doubt. Maybe because he’s spent so much of his life around blacks, he’s aware that, like white people, black people are unique, each one a tiny part of an immense, indescribably diverse diaspora. Maybe he was like a brother to a few black guys. Did his background and experience turn him into some sort of unofficial black guy with a license to run around saying what he wants? F— no, no matter what some former Dolphin says.
 
“The unfortunate reality in this country is that racial stereotypes have been so widely taught and internalized that we judge people, first and chiefly, by the color of their skin. Incognito probably feels black sometimes, like when he’s drunkenly calling Mike Pouncey “nigga.” He might even think he’s black sometimes. But fortunately for him, Incognito is white. He doesn’t have to worry about whether or not he can hail a cab. He doesn’t have to worry about being followed in a store. He doesn’t have to worry about being stopped and frisked for no reason. He doesn’t have to worry about being excluded from a job. He doesn’t have to worry about anyone holding their ground.”
 
Martin meanwhile has been portrayed as “soft” by current and former players; multiple media outlets have reported that Dolphins coaches instructed Incognito to abuse Martin in order to toughen him up. Martin is being criticized for leaving the team instead of responding to Incognito with physical violence. Former player and ESPN analyst Chris Carter reported that Dolphins players told him that Martin joked with teammates about the messages from Incognito that he’s now complaining about. If this is true, Martin has some explaining to do. That being said, the response to Martin leaving the team appears typical in a league where no one is allowed to show vulnerabilty.The Chiefs played a game 24 hours after their teammate killed his girlfriend in front of their child and then fled to the Chiefs practice facility, where he took his own life in front of Chiefs general manager Scot Pioli, coach Romeo Crenel and an assistant coach. The explanation from Crennel for not cancelling the game was that NFL coaches and players coach and play on Sundays.  
 
The NFL needs to seriously examine its culture. Former players such as Junior Seau committed suicide rather than seek help for depression, which apparently was the result of cumulative brian injuries that he and others suffered during their playing careers. Rookies are subjected to extortion, as “tradition” dictates that they must pay exorbidant amounts of money for team dinners and trips as a form of tribute to veteran players. Incognito reportedly took a rookie’s credit card and purchased a jet ski. Workplace bullying is now recognized as a serious issue. The forms of abuse which are typically dished out in NFL locker-rooms must be addressed. Now.
 
Stay tuned for info on the Community Party’s Safe Work Environment Act and Rep. Matt Ritter’s workplace bullying town hall, coming in 2014. Check out the Community Party Facebook page.  http://www.facebook.com/CommunityPartyAction. Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines.  https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1  Contact us at 860-206-8879 or samuelssloflo@aol.com.
 
 
 
Resources:
 
November 6 Clark Rising press conference on the attempted Achievement First takeover of Clark Elementary School:
 
 
Jonathan Pelto’s reports on the Clark Elementary School issue: 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Deadspin commentary by Greg Howard on the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal:
 
 
Workplace Violence News website; features resources on workplace violence and bullying:
 
 
David Samuels
Founder
Community Party
 
 
 
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