Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Growing Latino Population Affects Other Students

What happens when the student population of a school shifts? What happens when the number of Latino students starts to pass the number of African-American students in a school that was once predominantly black?

According to this controversial new report, a “toxic relationship” develops between Latino kids, who may lapse in Spanish, and African-American kids, who may feel alienated and lonely. The study of black fifth-graders in the Irving Independent School District, located just outside Dallas, raised eyebrows with its use of emotionally-charged language, which includes the phrase “race war” to describe the situation.

In this Dallas Morning News column, editorial writer Gabriel Escobar examines the controversy regarding the author’s language and contention that school tensions are a result of “Brown trumping Black.” About 12 percent of Irving students are black and 71 percent are Latino.

However, as Escobar points out, the meat of the study lies less in the author’s conclusions and more in the voices of the black students, who expressed a sense of isolation and rejection.

“I don’t speak Spanish, so a lot of times when the Mexicans speak Spanish, I have a hard time trying to fit in with them,” one student is noted as saying.

The report also notes this exchange:  “In a very derisive tone, one of the African American female students exclaimed,“Mexicans are everywhere!” Another African American student followed with “And we don’t get along with them!”

This report may be flawed, but it illustrates a side of the Latino education story that can often go overlooked.  As the Latino school-age population grows, how do the demographic changes affect non-Latino students? And what are schools doing to mitigate the negative effects on all students?

Take a look at the demographics in the district you cover. What trends do you see emerging? Is the student population shifting one way or the other? If so, talk to school officials, parents group and, most of all, to students about the impact on classrooms, curriculum, social interaction, and teacher staffing.

Is there a sense of isolation among the groups whose numbers are falling?