When one is not able to speak the truth freely, one’s freedom of expression plummets. Public Schools are equal opportunity employers. They all claim that they do not make employment decisions (including decisions related to hiring, assignment, compensation, promotion, demotion, disciplinary action and termination) on the basis of race, color, religion, age, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability (including pregnancy), genetic information, or gender identity or expression, except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification. Some districts even claim to have a policy of active recruitment of qualified minority teachers and non-certified employees and one that provides help for individuals needing assistance in completing the application for job openings.
These all-encompassing claims are indeed reassuring or should be to every educator who seeks employment within the United States, but this is not the case.
It is a well known fact that after the United States abolished slavery, black Americans continue to be marginalized through enforced segregated and diminished access to facilities, housing, education, and yes, employment opportunities. Sadly, one does not have to do any investigating to see the facts as they are. Take a look at the school demographic within your neighborhood, or even better, visit the State Department of Education website to view what’s going on in your district. Compare the percentage of minority educators with white educators. The difference is significant. Employment opportunities in education for minorities is a serious problem.
This problem will require genuine, purposeful, and sustained efforts to not only recruit and promote highly qualified minority educators, but mentor those who are interested in a career in education. Given the number of minorities choosing to become qualified, certified, and accomplished, many with advanced degrees, it is questionable as to why educators and administrators within our schools are so are overwhelmingly white. School districts, colleges, and universities must increase diversity among educators within school districts whether through personal connections, internships, or fellowship programs. A number of remarkable minority educators who have vied for teaching or administrative positions in school districts have been overlooked or marginalized.
This is indeed a major problem. The diverse life experiences that minorities bring are desperately needed in order to stay relevant, build sustainability, and more importantly, adhere to equal employment opportunity expectations. We cannot achieve greater diversity in our schools by denying minorities equal employment opportunities. Schools need to hire qualified minorities, mentor the ones who need mentoring, and promote them when they have gained the experience.
If qualification, experience, and in many cases certification helps to determine which candidate is best suited for jobs within our schools, then why are so many school districts overwhelmingly white? Are the demographics as posted on the districts’ websites sending a not so subtle message – Whites Only – Blacks Need Not Apply?
School districts must rethink equal employment opportunity for educators from minority groups.
Even though all educators are required to complete the same rigorous program of study and fulfill specific state certification requirements, when it comes to securing employment, minority groups are not given equal consideration as non-minority groups. These school districts’ demographics reflect that while non-minority groups appear to be entitled to equal employment opportunity, minority groups are denied this privilege — not because of a lack of qualification, certification, or experience, but because of what appears to be discriminatory hiring practices. A practice that is immoral, unlawful, reprehensible, and unacceptable. We teach our students that all men have certain unalienable rights, but when it comes to employment opportunities within school districts, it appears that only whites enjoy those rights.
Hiring minority groups to fulfill a diversity quota is certainly not the answer nor what I am proposing. Candidates should be selected for employment based on their competence and not their racial, ethnic, or other characteristics. It is more important now than ever before for school districts to rethink equal employment opportunity among minority groups to build a diverse, inclusive group of employees that reflects the world instead of the district. By design, schools are structured to support diverse talents and ways of learning. Employing only those who identify with the district’s population limits access to diverse insights, experiences, and worldviews and shows a lack of respect to minority groups.
Because it is incumbent upon educational leaders to provide the best education for every student, districts should recruit and hire the most competent person possible, within budget limitations, for the job. Recruiting and hiring predominantly members from non-minority groups send the message that only non-minority groups are competent enough to provide the best education for every student. While the screening, interviewing, and hiring processes for certified, qualified, and experienced candidates are crucial to selecting the most competent candidate for the job, school districts must be purposeful in their efforts. Educational leaders such as districts’ superintendent should use their platform to work with the school board and human resources to coordinate efforts to ensure that the recruiting and hiring practices are fair and free from discrimination. In their position of power, they should be challenged to do a better job in rethinking equal employment opportunity for candidates from minority groups.
Efforts to rethink equal employment opportunity for candidates from minority groups could include creating opportunities for a specific number of positions to be filled by minority groups; and working on an action plan to increase certified, qualified, experienced minority representation within the district. While there may be other ways to rethink equal employment opportunity for educators from minority groups, the aforementioned are surefire ways to underpin the transformation and diversity change that are necessary to ensure that recruiting and hiring practices do not appear discriminatory. This action plan, I opine, would be based off evidence to substantiate the claim that minority groups have been historically underrepresented within school districts.
Under my suggested plan to rethink equal employment opportunity for educators from minority groups within school districts, a specific number of jobs would be earmarked for minority groups over the next few years with a percentage of grant funding linked to this initiative for ensuring recruitment and retention efforts.
It is time for authentic affirmative action compliance determination within school districts. It is time for school districts to examine what is hindering the employment of certified, qualified, experienced candidates within their districts. It is time to rethink equal employment opportunity for educators from minority groups. It is time for school districts to stand back, look at their staff and reflect on whether the message they are sending is Whites Only – Blacks Need Not Apply.
Claudia Cousins is an adjunct professor at Central Connecticut State University.
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