Joseph Defillipo of Scandinavian Middle School is on paid administrative leave as the district investigates this case that confirms data and some of the inherent fears parents and educators have about how African-American students are perceived and treated in schools.
Various studies have indicated Black students are punished significantly more than white students, a disparity that concerns parents. Additionally, the level of punishment for Black students is greater than that of white students.
Across the land, statistics and anecdotes confirm that Black students in many American schools are in peril.
No wonder a recent study showed that Black students fare better in the classroom when taught by teachers who look like them. Increasingly and almost systematically, the classrooms are becoming more uncomfortable for Black students to learn.
This case in Fresno adds another story to the crisis. Blacks at Scandinavian Middle only make up 11 percent of the student population. Nearly 100 percent of the students there have seen the video, now on YouTube, and the outrage increases by the minute—especially because Difillipo remains on the payroll.
“He should be fired,” said Latricia Medley, whose child attends the school. “Why should we have to have our kids overseen by someone that (doesn’t) like them?”
A TV reporter asked would it have been OK if he were joking.
“That’s not a joke,” she answered. “It’s not a very funny joke.”
Defillipo has worked at the school since 2010, according to the Fresno Bee. In the video, filmed outside the school cafeteria, an unidentified student who shot it asks Defillipo, “Who at this school do you not like?”
“I just don’t like the Black kids,” he responds.
Defillipo was placed on paid administrative leave after the parents of the student who filmed his remark brought the video to school officials late last week.
“The interaction between the Scandinavian student and our employee has been brought to our attention and we are conducting an investigation,” the Fresno Unified School District said in a statement.
This kind of declaration by white school official increases the tension at a school were Black students are already heavily outnumbered. It’s made worse that he was suspended and not fired.
The study in Florida went a long way in answering the question of whether teacher race matters in the classroom. Though it was just one state, the sample size was a rather large nearly 3 million students and their performance was analyzed over a seven-year period.
The findings are especially important as the nation in the 2014-15 school year faces the first incoming class where the majority are students of color — while an estimated 80 percent of the teachers are white women.
For the Black community, the challenge looms especially large as the community in recent years has struggled to attract top students into the education field.
In the study, which will be released in the April issue of the Economics of Education Review, researchers focused on students’ statewide test scores between the third through 10th grades. They weighed the data to make sure the results weren’t influenced by such factors as teacher quality and student poverty level.
The researchers found that Black and white students have better reading scores on the state test when they are taught by teachers who look like them. In addition, Black, white and Asian/Pacific Island students have higher math scores when taught by teachers who look like them.