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Speak Out!! Eddie Griffin
Civil Rights Complaint Out of Order
Fort Worth- It gives me no great pleasure to take issue with the civil rights complaint filed against the school district over a minor change in the admission policy to Trimble Tech.
Though I agree, the modification to the application review process by screening student applicants through Central merely adds another layer of bureaucracy. But a civil rights complaint lodged with the Texas Education Agency is the equivalent of taking a scattergun to a gnat.
Trimble Tech High School’s admission policy was raised into question by certain board members who suspected Tech of cherry-picking the best academic students from the districts, thereby hurting other high schools academic pool.
This forced the Superintendent and her administration to review the policy and try to appease these board members about the integrity of the screening and selection process. The way to do that would be for the central administration to give more oversight in the review and selection of students for Tech.
Pastor Kyev Tatum says of the modified procedure: “We think it’s intimidation… They’ve created a system that’s unfair and unbalanced.” (See “Trimble Tech alumnus files complaint over new policy” by Eva-Marie Ayala)
Dr. Melody Johnson makes the counterclaim: Having central administration involved “ensures parents, students and the community that everything is fair, open and transparent.”
Here, I disagree with both. If the system is “unfair and unbalanced”, where is the proof of discrimination? Where is “malicious intent”? Discrimination must have occurred in order to establish intent to make the school system “unfair and unbalanced”. In reality, we can only speculate of a “potential” to abuse the screening process. The TEA cannot see any physicality nor raise a reasonable assumption to adjudicate such a claim of discrimination.
On the other hand, FWISD central administration is a hodgepodge of non-integrated functions. In reality, Central can barely handle its current responsibilities and workload. Operations are as antiquated as the education system itself.
Central is too top heavy and inefficient; therefore, it is not the best reviewing agency for student applications. Central office staff must become more skilled in collaborating across departments. Staff needs to master multitasking and streamlining processes. If anything, Central needs a better staff development program, and more integration of departments functions.
If there is a complaint, it should be lodged against board members who questioned the integrity of the selection process. A new board member questioning the process is understandable. But veteran board members have no excuse because they were there in the beginning when the Trimble Tech Improvement Plan was approved in 1996, and when the application and screening process was installed. The veterans should have orientated new board members on how we arrived at where we are. Fears and suspicions as to how the school maintains an “acceptable” rating or above should have never entered into the picture.
It was a dereliction of duty not to pass this knowledge and history on to the next generation of board members. New school boards have a tendency to reinvent the wheel when not properly briefed by their predecessors. This is why we have overlapping terms for board members.
As a community activist, child rights advocate, and a volunteer on various committees working on improving our education system, and one of the principal architects of the Trimble Tech Improvement Plan, I oppose presenting the issue to the Texas Education Agency as a civil rights matter.
According to Title 5, Administrative Procedures Act, we are afforded the right the Petition the Government for Redress of Grievance, but only in an organized and procedural way, not scattergun. An injured party must follow the process, step by step, until they exhaust the review process. After exhaustion, the grieving party has a right to bring their petition before the court, under jurisdiction established in Title 42, otherwise known as the Civil Rights Act of 1965. This is the federal model. The state can do no less.
The key to resolution is taking an issue step by step through the pre-judicial process. However, Pastor Tatum skipped a critical step.
In order to avoid clogging up the court with frivolous civil rights cases, the courts recognized the need to establish an administrative review process that included “informal resolution” and “arbitration”.
Dr. Johnson has opened the door for informal resolution. She said, “We welcome the opportunity to meet up with Rev. Tatum to talk about this.”
This is the proper course to take. This is the first step towards exhausting his remedies. If, after meeting with Dr. Johnson, Tatum does not find relief, he has the right to register a formal complaint, and all rights to appeal thereafter.
Fort Worth, Texas 76104