Implicit Bias Among North Carolina Teachers

A recent study on implicit bias published by NC State University looks closely at how Wake County educators are influenced by racial bias in the classroom.

I recently read about a study that was conducted and published by NC State University. The purpose of the study was to determine if racial bias played a part in a teacher’s decision to punish their students. In Wake County, only 24% of students are Black, however, they accounted for 55% of out-of-school suspensions in 2015. On top of that, Black students accounted for 65% of total class periods missed due to out-of-school suspensions. White students made up only 19% of out-of-school suspensions and accounted for a mere 13% of class periods missed which would tend to suggest that not only are Black students punished more frequently but for longer durations.

The study also suggests that teachers frequently are worse at identifying the emotions of their Black students. When shown actors portraying different emotions such as anger and surprise, prospective teachers are 1.5 times more likely to accurately identify the emotions of white adults than of black adults. They were also three times more likely to identify that the expression on a Black person’s face was associated with anger when in reality the person was not displaying anger at all. In addition, when later shown videos of misbehaving boys of different races doing the exact same thing and being asked to grade the boys on a scale of one to five in terms of the severity of their conduct, the Black children were rated at 3.37 on average whereas White children, who displayed identical conduct, were assigned scores of 2.12 on average, which was far less severe.

The observations obtained through this study help us to understand a concept known as implicit bias. Implicit biases are those that each of us possess and internalize in our values and attitudes which we do not realize. All people, Black, White, Latino, Asian, Native American, all of us possess these implicit biases. The only way we can address these biases is if we understand them and compensate for them in our behavior.

It’s not surprising that you would see far more Black students being suspended for longer periods of time based upon identical conduct engaged in by other students in light of the findings in this study where subtle gestures, facial expressions, and conduct are interpreted differently based upon our worldview and values that we have internalized. We can all do better in addressing implicit biases, however, we must work to eradicate them from our schools, our court systems, and other institutions which should be serving all people equally.

Reception in Support of the Equal Rights Amendment

I thoroughly enjoyed participating in a program supporting the Equal Rights Amendment hosted by ERA NC in the offices of the Law Firm of Winston and Strawn LLP. There has been a great deal of interest and excitement about NC becoming the 38th and final state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment as a result of the ERA being passed by the states of Nevada last year and the state of Illinois earlier this year. I have introduced a bill seeking the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment here in North Carolina on several occasions, and, in my opinion, it is hard to believe that in the year 2018 that this is even a contentious issue for debate and discussion. It is obvious that women deserve equality in the eyes of the law and this point should be undebatable. If we now, as a country, embrace marriage equality there is absolutely no conceivable reason why we should not embrace gender equality.

See all of the images from the event over on our Facebook Page.

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Town Hall Meeting with Durham’s Legislative Delegation

Yesterday evening, Durham’s Legislative Delegation conducted a Town Hall Meeting which took place at the Headquarters for the Durham County Democratic Party. I was extremely pleased to see a crowd of close to 200 people turn out for this event. There was standing room only. Each member of our delegation was able to discuss issues of concern which occurred during the Short Session of the General Assembly which ended recently.

There was a great deal of interest among those attending about the six proposed amendments to North Carolina’s Constitution which will be on the ballot in November; I would encourage each of you to vote no to these amendments which are unneeded and unnecessary. Many of the amendments are designed to intentionally confuse voters, and their true purpose and intent is to simply help the Republican supermajority turn out their base this November. There was also discussion relating to actions which need to be taken to ensure that we break the Republican supermajority in the North Carolina House and in the North Carolina Senate. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who turned out for this important event, and I would encourage each of them to assist us in turning out voters for the November election.

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The People’s Alliance Judicial Candidate Mixer

I would like to thank the People’s Alliance for hosting an outstanding judicial candidate’s forum yesterday at Motorco. Judicial candidates or their representatives who are running for statewide offices as well as those running locally were allowed a few minutes to discuss their qualifications and perspective. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Attorney Nana Asante-Smith for doing an excellent job as the moderator of this event. Her approach was very even-handed and respectful; however, she did not hesitate to stop each candidate from exceeding the time they were given for remarks.

This may well be the only event this year where all of the judicial candidates running statewide and locally, regardless of whether they have opposition or are running unopposed, were assembled in one location for the public to hear and observe. There were also candidates running as Soil and Water Conservation Commissioners who were given time to speak at this event as well. 

There are many more pictures from this event over on our Facebook Page.

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Legislative Gun Control Proposal to Keep Our Schools Safe

Today, I participated in a news conference with Senator Jay Chaudhuri, Senator Jeff Jackson, Rep. Grier Martin, and Rep. Marcia Morey during which we presented a Legislative Gun Control Proposal to Keep Our Schools Safe. Our proposal included the following:

  • The enactment of extreme risk protection orders that would allow families and law enforcement to ask the courts to temporarily remove guns from individuals who endangered themselves or their community.
  • To expand universal background checks for assault-style firearms such as the AR-15 weapon used in the Parkland shooting.
  • To raise the age for the purchase of assault weapons to 21.
  • To prohibit the sale of bump stocks which are an inexpensive device that modifies a semi-automatic weapon into a machine gun.
  • Increasing funding for school psychologists and school therapists.
  • Funding a highly visible statewide anonymous tip line.

During the press conference, I spoke of the need for our State to operate an anonymous tip line statewide so that students, family members, and concerned citizens can report potential threats of violence. I also spoke of the need for increased funding for School Psychologists and School Counselors in our state. The national average for School Psychologists is 1 for every 700 students, however, in NC, we currently have only 1 for every 2,000 students. When it comes to School Counselors, the national average is 1 for every 250 students, however, in NC, we only have 1 for every 375 students. Yet there has been one common thread that is tied together virtually all of the school shootings as well as other mass murders. It is the fact that the gunman has been diagnosed with mental illnesses which went unaddressed. We need to make certain that we diagnose and intercept students with mental illnesses at the earliest possible point in time to get them help so as to avoid circumstances that could result in their using firearms to hurt themselves or others. I also spoke of the need for us to direct the Center for Safer Schools to conduct a study to determine recommended funding for school resource officers who are law enforcement officers assigned to our schools.

The package of reforms which we collectively proposed will be part of legislation which will be introduced this year. I am hopeful that we will obtain bipartisan for these common-sense measures which will represent meaningful incremental change.

The Durham Democratic Party Public Hearing on Resolutions

I’d like to thank all the activists who attended Durham Democratic Party public hearing this past Saturday at the Hillandale Resource Center where a compilation of resolutions submitted during Democratic Precinct Meetings were discussed. This year, Stephen Gheen, Chairman of the Durham County Democratic Party, established a committee to review resolutions submitted at precinct meetings with the goal of creating a single document containing all resolutions which would be voted up or down at the County Convention for the Democratic Party. Mr. Milo Pyne and Attorney Shelia Ann Huggins were appointed as Co-Chairpersons of the committee. The committee was composed of approximately 10-12 activists in the party which was charged with this important mission. I had the privilege of serving as a member of this committee. The committee met for approximately 14-16 hours to devise a proposed resolution package for the party’s consideration. The purpose of the meeting this past Saturday was to receive community input on the resolutions before the package was finalized. I’d like to thank all the members of the committee who participated in the Durham Democratic Party public hearing, but more importantly all of those who came out for this special occasion to share their thoughts, concerns, and constructive input.

A Walkout & Moment of Silence at Durham School of the Arts

Today, I joined over a thousand students at the Durham School of the Arts who joined hand in hand with teachers, administrators, community leaders, and parents who are deeply concerned about the safety of our schools and policies which do not go far enough in restricting access to firearms in our country.

The event took place at approximately 1:15 pm when student leaders began with a moment of silence to commemorate those who had lost their lives to school violence. This was followed by the reading of the names of each person who was killed during the recent school shooting incident in Parkland,. At approximately 1:30, the bells of a local church chimed 17 times in honor of those who lost their lives. At the end of this moving ceremony, students were asked to take out their cell phones and to make a call to elected officials in a call to action.

Their message was simple:

“I’m a student at Durham School of the Arts. I don’t need a response. I want to share with you my thoughts on Gun Control in the US. I am opposed to the easy access to guns. We need to have more stringent laws as well as thorough background checks to those who want to get a firearm in order to decrease gun violence in our schools. I am a student and I do not feel safe in the State of North Carolina.”

These are profound words which I hope will reach the hearts and conscious of those serving in Congress and motivate them to finally take meaningful action. 

I’ve been extremely excited by the level of student activism and engagement on issues related to gun control in the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy. It’s unfortunate that such a horrific incident was needed to bring together people all across America to understand the need for change. I have not seen such a level of engagement among students since the anti-war movement in the late 60’s and early 70’s. We can only hope and pray that the time has finally come for meaningful change, which is long overdue, to occur.

Durham Early Childhood Education Community Forum

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending an Early Childhood Community Forum which provided an outstanding overview of the reasons why we need to establish a universal preschool program to serve all 3 and 4-year-old children in Durham County. Presently, only 38% of children entering kindergarten in Durham are proficient in reading. Even by the end of 3rd grade, 53% of our students score below grade level in reading. Data also suggests that 12% of our preschools children come from families where there are mental health problems in the home, and 16% live in homes where the cost of housing exceeds 50% of a family’s income. 

We all realize that if students are not reading by the time they complete 3rd grade, there is a substantially greater probability that they will encounter academic difficulties in school and are more likely to be kids that will drop out from school later in life and frequently become involved with a higher level of disciplinary problems. It is a result of these factors that Durham County is embarking upon an aggressive campaign to establish universal preschool for 3 and 4-year-olds in our community. 

It is estimated that it will cost 14.5-15.5 million dollars simply to serve the low-income children in our community, but the goal of this ambitious undertaking is to provide high quality preschool to all 3 and 4-year-olds by 2023. Durham County is beginning a commitment to this process by appropriating 1 cent on the county’s property tax rate which would be dedicated for this purpose, however, substantially more will need to be done to make this commendable dream a reality. I’d like to thank all of those who participated in the program this past Saturday for their commitment to the future of children in our community. I will do all that I can to support this initiative since it is a wonderful vision worthy of our State and our community’s investment.

Animal Rescue Weekend – Coral & Mr. G’s Journey to a New Home

This weekend I had the opportunity to take part in an activity that is near and dear to my heart – the rescue of a couple of sweet dogs. As I learned this weekend, rescuing an animal can be defined in so many more ways than just adopting. This weekend I became part a group of individuals that pour their hearts into saving animals one by one through fostering and transporting for rescues who give dogs a second chance at a wonderful life.

My small part involved giving a Pit Bull mix mom and a Jack Russell mix boy a lift from Durham, NC to South Hill, VA but that was just a small part of the three day 1247 mile trip from Youngsville, LA to Mechanicsburg, PA where Coral the Pit and Mr. G the Terrier mix will get their new chance at an amazing life. Coral and Mr. G’s saviors include twenty drivers and two overnighters, a sending rescue, a receiving rescue, and a transport coordinator/monitor from a rescue who assists others in order to keep expenses down for charities that opt to rescue from afar.

Teamwork plays a large part in any charity activity, but the dedication and devotion to saving lives were very apparent in each and every volunteer’s picture and post as they documented their loving contribution to the movement of two deserving souls destined for better times. Organizations such as StoryTeller’s Express, Inc depend on volunteers to assist them in assisting others each transport weekend and many of these trips have routes that pass through the State of North Carolina. No matter where you are within the State, you may be able to assist through providing a 1 to 1 ½ hour ride or a temporary overnight stay along the route which truly makes a difference in lowering the euthanasia rates for states in the south while providing dogs to wonderful homes with great families. Three hours out of your weekend is so little to give and most times the organizations are registered as 501c3 charities which enables you to consider your efforts as tax-deductible contributions while saving lives.

Much help is needed in our State where rescues such as these not only pass through on transport but also pull dogs and transfer them to wherever they might have a greater opportunity for loving homes. If you would like to become a part of this amazing network, I would urge you to reach out to StoryTeller’s Express, Inc via their Facebook page and consider signing up as a volunteer. This rescue not only rescues dogs themselves but also assists other rescues in keeping down costs through organizing volunteer rescues such as the one I assisted with this weekend. If you can overnight foster, temp foster, long-term foster, drive, do home checks, monitor transports, or even tag volunteers your assistance is greatly needed!
One can also offer assistance by signing up on their website.

Please consider becoming involved by doing a small part to help animals in need. Together we can make a huge difference for a worthy cause!