Saturday, September 26, 2009

Put On Blast

Earlier this week, PA Human Relations Commission (HRC) released a report on its investigation of the Creative Steps Day Camp’s claim of discrimination against the Valley Swim Club.  The HRC’s findings pretty much confirm the camp and the campers’ families charge of discrimination by the club and its members, but what’s most disheartening is the role of Michele Flynn in all of this mess. Flynn is a club member and teacher at Laura H. Carnell Elementary School, where many of the campers attend. 

A few of the campers reported hearing Ms. Flynn asking, “What are all these Black kids doing here?” during their ill-fated visit to the school.   The HRC report includes email exchanges between Valley club members and their board, as well as between Valley’s board president and the camp director, and paints Flynn as one of the ring leaders in squashing the contract between the club and the camp.  Flynn goes as far to slander one of her former students who is also a part of the camp, telling fellow-members this young boy was a known thief who had stolen from one of the teachers at Carnell.  The HRC reviewed all of the campers’ school files and no such claim can be substantiated.

Now, Creative Steps and the campers’ families are considering filing civil suits and the federal authorities have opened a civil rights investigation against the swim club.  Pending civil suits, a federal investigation and a suggested fine of $50,000 by the HRC will probably force the club to shutter its doors for good.  

I’m not sure how I feel about all of this resulting in the pool closing, because more than likely it will only deepen the resentment between the two sides.  Club members who didn’t participate in this mess will lose their safe and welcoming respite and the campers will always be seen as being the catalyst of the demise of this private pool. Sure, the camp, the kids and their families can take comfort in knowing they righted a wrong, but I’m not convinced losing the pool is best outcome.

I’m more concerned with Michelle Flynn’s actions and her continued employment as a teacher.  Yeah, I know all about Flynn’s right to exercise her freedom of speech, but she’s a teacher of children of color in the Philadelphia School District and she should have used better judgment.  Flynn allowed her personal biases to cloud the fact that her actions (and words) would be extremely hurtful to her students and then she was careless enough to spread her hatefulness through the Ethernet in those damning emails she exchanged with other club members.

I wouldn’t want this teacher teaching my kids, not because she’s a bad teacher, but because her actions and attitudes reflected in those emails are that of a straight-up racist and I’m not confident she can unload that baggage before she walks through her classroom door.  She may be a fine teacher and until this unfortunate incident, she may not have even recognized herself as a racist, and in her daily interactions with her students what subtle (or not so subtle) messages is she channeling to her students?  Does she see them as full of boundless potential, or does she see herself as their great savior on a mission to help little colored children learn how to read and write? Does she encourage them to exceed expectations and do their absolute best under any and all circumstances, or does she simply go along to get along so she can continue to collect a paycheck and the ample benefits package offered by the school district?  Whatever her m.o., she didn’t count on her personal biases being put on blast for the entire world to see and judge. Well, for me the verdict is in and maybe she should reconsider her career choice, because honestly, she’s probably doing more harm than good.

1 comment:

LaNeshe said...

Put on blast indeed.