Alternative School Blues and Lies

Kumar Rashad

Rodney is a false name for an actual student of mine or should I say a former student.  He had been placed at Breckinridge Metropolitan High School in the fall semester for a fight at another school in which a teacher intervened and was struck unintentionally by the two young men who were fighting.  Breckinridge Metropolitan High School or Breck Metro is an alternative school in the district whose majority population are students who have gotten into legal troubles.

When Rodney enters Breck Metro, he is told that if he is present 80% of the time (4 days a week), gets less than 10 referrals while he is in school, and makes no worse than 1 U in his subject grades, he will be allowed to return to a “regular” school.  

Rodney is a quiet gentleman but no one crosses him out of respect and most people like him.  He gets straight A’s the entire first semester. Rodney does not get one single referral and is well past the 80% attendance threshold.  He does everything right and has a golden smile that could carry him along way in this world.

He has every right to smile since he knows he will be getting out of Breck Metro after the winter break.  Why shouldn’t he? Every third Friday, Breck has an incentive party for those who have good attendance and behavior.  Rodney never missed one and is applauded by all of his teachers for his character and hard work.

The day before Christmas break, the principal calls him into the office.  I tell Rodney good luck in his future because I expect him to be in transition to his new school.  When Rodney returns to my class, he looks like his best friend died and his golden smile is now a frown.  When asked why, he tells me that the principal told him that the “Board” would not dismiss him from our school and he would have to finish the entire year at Breck. 

Rodney is heart-broken and I try to console him but I have no words because I can’t understand how a guy like Rodney is denied.  Who on the “Board” denied him?

Christmas break roles by and the first day of the Spring semester I am waiting for Rodney to come in my class so we can have one of those conversations we always have about music and life.  Unfortunately, Rodney does not show up to my class. Instead, he gets into a fight with another student who teases him about not being able to leave.

Rodney is suspended and after that event, I may have seen Rodney a total of 3 times since then.  He dropped out of school and contributes to the statistics that plague many of our Black males in public education.  I blame JCPS and especially the “Board” who consistently deny our black males the opportunity they deserve.

Renee Murphy in an article from the Courier Journal says that the alternative task force who is assigned to determine policies for alternative schools said that the task force did not address the entrance and exit requirements for students in alternative schools because the bulk of their work addressed issues that would indirectly affect the exit policies.  This is a load of garbage because the district should use all of its resources to help our students instead of using empty language and outdated policies to ruin the lives of our most vulnerable.  

I miss Rodney so much and have tried to reach out to him with no avail but it didn’t have to happen if we had a “Board” that cared about our kids and treated the vulnerable as if they were special.  All our kids want is love and my love for Rodney and others like him have made me hate what WE (JCPS and the “Board”) did to the many Rodneys that are in my school today. Stop lying to my kids JCPS.  That’s not racial equity. It’s simply cruelty and bullying. Put that in your Backpack!

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