Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Minority Students in Md. School: We’re Perceived as ‘Academically Inferior’

Latino and black students in Montgomery County, Md., told school district officials they are sometimes perceived as “academically inferior” and want change under the district’s next leader. The speech by a group of seven minority students was given at a community gathering hosted by the Montgomery County Education Forum amid the district’s search for a new superintendent. 

Lindsay A. Powers reports for The Gazette that when one student was accepted to Princeton University, fellow students and even staff told him, “You got in because you’re black.” He said teachers encourage black and Latino students to go to two-year colleges or into the workforce. 

Another speaker, Jason Salgero, said he dropped out of MCPS during his junior year and is working on getting his GED. He had a reputation for truancy, a fluctuating grade point average and a difficult home life, but no one talked with him about the issues. Salgero said the schools should add more counselors to focus on students and that teachers “should not brush it off when students have bad grades.”

This forum isn’t the first MCPS officials have heard from students about their feelings of perceived inferiority and racism in the schools. In January, students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School emulated the “I, Too, Am Harvard” viral video from black students at that Ivy League university with a video of their own: “I, Too, Am B-CC.”

About that video, Donna St. George of The Washington Post writes, “(It) has opened a conversation at B-CC about what minority students experience and what can be done to change school culture.”

Parents and community leaders also spoke about the need for change at the forum, describing obstacles for both minority students and their parents. 

According to a Leadership Profile Report – a look at the findings of the Leadership Profile Assessment conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA) for a new MCPS superintendent based on community forums, individual interviews and an online survey — respondents consistently listed diversity among the district’s weaknesses. Among the desired characteristics for the new superintendent was listed “Evidence of being culturally aware, culturally responsive, and valuing diversity.”