The leaves are turning. The school bells are ringing. The suspicions that black kids are sneaking into our schools are on the rise.

Yes, it happens every year. And not just in Forest Park, but, yes, in Forest Park, too. A few white folks become inordinately suspicious when they see a black kid head toward an el stop after school, arrive at school in a cab. They point a finger, the District 91 schools investigate. And in most instances it is found that the student is a legitimate resident of Forest Park, has as much right to a seat in the fourth grade as any other local kid.

Sure there are exceptions. There are parents of different races who aspire to have their children attend a better school. They break the rules. And, we are confident, they are most always caught.

Here’s the thing. There is no upside to a local school district allowing the children of non-residents into our schools. School administrators, school boards are rightly budget obsessed. Those of us paying the taxes appreciate that. So District 91 contracts with a private investigation firm to ferret out the families working to violate the rules.

Many more students are investigated than are expelled. And that’s where the suspicious minds and the racial overtones come into play. It is African American students who are most often suspected of border jumping. That is not coincidental.

As Superintendent Lou Cavallo says in a news article in today’s Review, there are a lot of varying circumstances in families today. There are a lot of family support systems at work that don’t look much like the olden days when kids walked home and mom met them in the kitchen. Sometimes that system may have a student hop the el to stay with a relative after school until mom gets off work. The district contracts with the cab company to ferry some special ed students back and forth to school because it is less expensive and more efficient than running a bus.

We’re talking here about racial aspects that work into our white thinking processes. We’re not calling out racists. We are asking people to examine their thinking, to consider their motives, their worries and fears. It is OK to have race be a component in your thinking — most all of us do in one degree or another. The progress comes when we stop and think before we act, before we make that call.

Pretty in pink

Firefighters in Forest Park are always brave. This month they are also fashion forward in their pink T-shirts.

In support of a brother firefighter who lost a sister to breast cancer last year when she was just 40, the entire department is both wearing and selling the T-shirts in support of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which battles breast cancer.

The shirts cost $15. The department has sold 300 so far and is just getting started. You can get one by contacting the fire department. The phone is 366-1234. Or e-mail firefighter Phil Chiappetta at pchiappetta@forestpark.net.

It makes us proud.