April 2, 1995 in Nation/World

Walkout Isn’t A Step Toward Unity

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Inez Anderson has Post Falls parents, school officials and teachers in a dilemma: oppose her tactics and be labeled a racist, or keep quiet and become a victim.

Anderson, a black activist, stormed onto a junior-high campus recently, uttering profanities, and encouraged a student walkout after another youngster allegedly used a racial epithet in referring to her son. She didn’t think the Post Falls School District responded properly to the incident.

There are no excuses for racial slurs.

But Anderson has blown this episode out of proportion, polarized impressionable students, and undercut district officials who have taken progressive steps to fight racism.

Last spring, school officials responded to name-calling and harassment directed at Anderson’s high-school daughter by adopting a zero-tolerance policy toward discrimination. They also invited human-rights activist Bill Wassmuth to address patrons, scoured textbooks for racial language, warned students about the consequences of racism, paid for students to go to a regional human-rights seminar, and formed an anti-discrimination steering committee.

As part of its zero-tolerance policy, the district established steps for handling racial complaints, including penalties that involve suspension. School officials who investigated the Anderson incident decided they didn’t have enough evidence to punish the other child.

The highly regarded Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations is pleased with the district’s progress and noticeably has stayed out of this latest controversy.

Anderson is hard to please, though.

A year ago, she referred to Post Falls as “a red-neck town where people are ignorant” and tried to appear on “Oprah” to denounce it. Recently, she claimed the anti-discrimination committee “was designed to shut me up.”

A black woman defending her children against racism carries considerable clout, and rightly so.

But Anderson has abused that power by effectively muzzling parents who don’t want their children’s education sacrificed for one person’s activism - particularly parents of students who are struggling and can’t afford to miss class for a walkout.

A parent not intimidated is Susan Manley-Smith, the steering committee chairwoman and mother of a black foster child. She has a message for Anderson and others who have a chip on their shoulders in these hypersensitive ‘90s: “She’s got to quit overreacting every time someone calls her kid a name.”

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board


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