I never thought I would see the day when the Forest Park Review would hop on the bandwagon of sensationalized race-related reporting. Bob Skolnik’s story, “Black students suspended at higher rate in D91” [News, May 6] is sloppy at best, and unethical journalism at worst. 

Now, I don’t have a crystal ball or anything, but from the moment I saw the title, I knew that the accusation of racism was about to be made. It turns out I was right! It was the same ambiguous charge that you’d hear reported on only the most viewer-starved tabloid news networks. This is a problem.

The author did mention that black children statistically have a much higher chance of being raised by a poor single mother. This is the truly sensational issue! According to the Journal of Family and Marriage, the U.S. Dept. of Education, Dr. Edward Kruk and other credible sources, children of single mothers are statistically more likely to struggle academically. Also, it is well documented by the NCJRS, Dept. of Health and Human Services, and other establishments of merit that children of single parents are more likely to be incarcerated for violent crimes, suffer from mental disorders, and commit suicide. This is the serious news that needs to be reported more often.

Instead we get a report from the authoritative source of “others” who “point toward racism.” He adds that it is “perhaps unconscious,” putting on the affectation of a reasonable mediator who wants to see both sides of the story. 

The problem here is that there is no story. Not a single specific event or individual actor who can be referenced and scrutinized is mentioned, despite bold claims that “teachers and administrators often treat black students more harshly” and “sometimes white teachers have trouble dealing with black students.” The accusation simply casts a vague guilt on the teachers and administrators as a whole like a thick fog that settles on everybody. It is reminiscent of original sin or a Franz Kafka novel, where no particular crime is discovered, yet guilt is implicated in some amorphous way that makes everyone feel uneasy and tense. In this case, even the accusers are unknown! This is certainly not journalism’s finest hour.

I am no journalist, but I know for sure that every story has an actor and an action, a noun and a verb, a subject and predicate. This accusation of racism lacks both. When such serious claims are made, especially by journalists, there should be a reasonable standard of evidence that includes suspects and an event in particular that can be investigated. Otherwise, you’re just manipulating the issue into a scandal to make a splash.

This is the sort of thing that not only throws shade on our own schools, it is liable to cause racial tensions where none existed prior. Maybe after reading this, a fearful teacher will ignore the bad behavior of a black child, for fear of being called a racist for disciplining them, and other well-behaved children will suffer from it. Maybe now if a black child is suspended, the child’s family will choose to see it as racism rather than accept that their child misbehaved, and a deep distrust in the school system will be fostered. Who knows? All that is certain is that the Forest Park Review should have much higher standards in their reporting when they report serious accusations such as “racism” and I think this speaks to a broader problem in the media today.

Michael Huttner

Forest Park

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