Ebonics suggested for district By Irma Lemus Staff Writer SAN BERNARDINO Incorporating Ebonics into a new school policy that targets black students, the lowest-achieving group in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, may provide students a more well-rounded curriculum, said a local sociologist. The goal of the district's policy is to improve black students' academic performance by keeping them interested in school. Compared with other racial groups in the district, black students go to college the least and have the most dropouts and suspensions. Blacks make up the second largest racial group in the district, trailing Latinos. A pilot of the policy, known as the Students Accumulating New Knowledge Optimizing Future Accomplishment Initiative, has been implemented at two city schools. Mary Texeira, a sociology professor at Cal State San Bernardino, commended the San Bernardino Board of Education for approving the policy in June. Texeira suggested that including Ebonics in the program would be beneficial for students. Ebonics, a dialect of American English that is spoken by many blacks throughout the country, was recognized as a separate language in 1996 by the Oakland school board. "Ebonics is a different language, it's not slang as many believe,' Texeira said. "For many of these students Ebonics is their language, and it should be considered a foreign language. These students should be taught like other students who speak a foreign language.' Texeira said research has shown that students learn better when they fully comprehend the language they are being taught in. "There are African Americans who do not agree with me. They say that (black students) are lazy and that they need to learn to talk,' Texeira said. Len Cooper, who is coordinating the pilot program at the two city schools, said San Bernardino district officials do not plan to incorporate Ebonics into the program. "Because Ebonics can have a negative stigma, we're not focusing on that,' Cooper said. "We are affirming and recognizing Ebonics through supplemental reading books (for students).' Beginning in the 2005-06 school year, teachers will receive training on black culture and customs. District curriculum will now include information on the historical, cultural and social impact of blacks in society. Although the program is aimed at black students, other students can choose to participate. The pilot program at Rio Vista Elementary and King Middle schools focuses on second-, fourth- and seventh-grade classes. District officials hope to train teachers from other schools using the program as a model. Board member Danny Tillman, who pushed for the policy, said that full implementation of the program at all schools may take years, but the pilot program is a beginning. "At every step we will see positive results,' Tillman said. Tillman hoped the new policy would increase the number of black students going to college and participating in advanced courses. Teresa Parra, board vice president, said she worried the new program would have an adverse effect. "I'm afraid that now that we have this the Hispanic community, our largest population, will say, 'We want something for us.' Next we'll have the Asian community and the Jewish community (asking for their own programs). When will it end?' Parra said the district should focus on helping all students who are at risk. "I've always thought that we should provide students support based on their needs and not on their race,' Parra said. Tillman disagreed with Parra, saying programs that help Latinos already exist in the district. He cited the district's English- as-a-second-language program. Texeira urged people not be quick to judge the new program as socially exclusive. She said people need to be open to the program. "Everybody has prejudices, but we must all learn to control that behavior,' Texeira said. She said a child's self confidence is tied to his or her cultural identity. She compared the low performance of black students to starvation. "How can you be angry when you feed a family of starving children?' Ratibu Jacocks, a member of the Westside Action Group, a coalition of black activists, said they are working with the district to ensure the policy is implemented appropriately. "This isn't a feel-good policy. This is the real thing,' Jacocks said. Jacocks said he didn't believe the new policy would create animosity. He said he welcomed the idea of other ethnic groups pushing for their own programs. "When you are doing what's right, others will follow,' Jacocks said. "We have led the way before the civil-rights movement opened the door for women's rights and other movements.' http://www.sbsun.com/Stories/0,1413,208~12588~2969790,00.html -- I would be insulted. You have to lower the standards so my race can do well?