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Black students’ field trips tabled over inclusion concerns

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – An Indiana school district said Monday it will restructure field trips designed to expose black students to colleges so that they include students of all races following complaints from parents.

David Moss, director of African-American student and parent services for the South Bend Community School Corp., had planned a series of outings to local colleges with black third-graders. But some parents said the trips were discriminatory because they excluded children of other races and voiced concerns that the outings could expose the district to civil rights violations, the South Bend Tribune reported.

“The goals are very meritorious, but it’s a very poorly conceived idea,” resident Valerie Mora said.

District spokeswoman Sue Coney said the trips hadn’t been vetted by Superintendent Carole Schmidt as required and that the two trips this week were postponed until they’re restructured.

Schmidt told the school board Monday that she had reviewed the matter and that the field trips would be open to all students.

The district hired Moss in 2013 to create academic and social programs focused on black students amid concerns that they had been disproportionately suspended or cited for infractions by school resource officers. The state cited the district that year for shifting a disproportionate number of black students into special education classes and said school officials didn’t document what led to the decision, including students’ current performance levels.

School board member Bill Sniadecki, who opposed creating Moss’s department, said last week that the debate over the field trips illustrates why he thought it was a bad idea to launch a program focused on one group of students.

“We are in the 21st century, and we should not have ‘Whites Only or Blacks Only’ in any situation,” he said in an email.

The district has offered other events specifically for black students.

Washington High School has hosted a conference for African-American males with sessions focusing on character building, community service and the importance of reading. In September, more than 500 black males from city high schools attended a summit organized by Moss that focused on leadership and other topics.