A high school principal in Worcester, Mass. has declared war on one of her teachers for having the temerity to suggest her school’s teachers are “colorblind” and don’t evaluate others on the basis of their race.
Janice Harvey is an English teacher at Worcester North High School, and she also writes as a contributor for Worcester Magazine. Last week, she wrote a piece defending her school after several fights and bomb threats captured local headlines and prompted an increased police presence at the school. Harvey objected to the allegations of local journalist Clive McFarlane, as well as a group of activists, the Coming Together Collective, whom she says have exploited the North High brawls to claim there is racism at the school.
“Along with McFarlane, the Collective has turned the troubles at North into an issue of race relations, and that’s when I have to cry ‘FOUL,'” Harvey writes in her column. “North High has its problems – any urban high school with a poverty rate over 90 percent has more than its share – but racial tension between students, or between staff and students, has never been an issue … [O]ur staff, which is not even close to being lily-white, is color-blind, and thankfully so are our students.”
To many, Harvey’s defense of North High would appear well-aligned with the traditional liberal principles of treating all races equally. But to Harvey’s own boss, principal Lisa Dyer, it actually reveals insidious racism.
On Sunday night, several days after Harvey’s column was published, Dyer sent an email to the entire staff of the school blasting her employee for calling her school colorblind, saying it ignored the right of students to honor their particular “complexions.”
“Personally, I’m embarrassed when she says our teachers and students are colorblind,” wrote Dyer. “As if our students don’t know enough to honor the beauty of their complexions. Are we not teaching our students how to overcome challenges they may face in our society and their history in the eyes of America? Are we not helping to instill a pride in them of who they are?”
Dyer went even further, saying that by championing a colorblind approach Harvey was actually a racist.
“Cultural Competency 101: ‘colorblindness’ suggests racism,” she wrote. “Why do we have to be ‘colorblind’ to educate any student and treat them with dignity and respect? Complexion is a part of ones [sic] identity and the majority of us know the significance of identity to adolescent development. We cannot be colorblind if we are to prepare all of our students for success in the real world.”
The email was sent with a warning from Dyer not to share its contents with local media, so unsurprisingly it was submitted to the local blog Turtleboy Sports by four different people within hours.
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