Hugh McInnish

Huntsville, Alabama 36802

(256)

February 28, 2011

Ms. Allison R. Brown Trial Attorney

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division

Educational Opportunities Section Washington, DC 20004

Dear Ms. Brown:

Your letter of 16 February to Mr. J. R. Brooks concerning the Huntsville schools has been widely circulated, and a copy has fallen into my hands. May I have your permission to offer you a few comments?

Since you don't know me, I will briefly introduce myself. I am neither a lawyer nor an educator, but a retired engineer. Although retired, I still do some consulting work. My interest in the schools is as a parent, a grandparent, and above all as a very concerned citizen. I have lived in Huntsville since 1964. As I proceed I believe that you will see that, for better or for worse, my viewpoint will be a new one. Some of my words, though not so intended, will perhaps be offensive to some, but they must be said.

My comments will be concentrated on the subjects of Student Assignment and Student Discipline.

In regard to course offerings you point out that white Challenger Middle School had students enrolled in 29 sections of advanced prograrnrning, while black Davis Hills Middle School had only nine enrolled. You then compared predominately white Hampton Cove Middle School with predominately black Ed White Middle School. The first had 31 advanced and the last had 14.

An advanced programming course is bound to be challenging and for which only those with the most ability and preparation are suited. And it is certainly true that mathematical ability and proficiency in reading is a good measure of such. The chart below shows the two pairs of schools which you compare. Note that the black-white gap in math is, in each of the pairs, about 50 percentile points, and in reading about 45. It is

altogether plausible that this gap accounts for the difference in the number of advanced prograrnrning courses offered. Being called "advanced" means that it is not for the ordinary student, but for the exceptional student.

Middle School SAT 10 Scores

90 -~ - ---
80
70
~ 60
z 50 •
=
i;,j
u 40
~
Q. 30
20
10
0 Math Score Read Score

ChaliengerDavis Hill:li1mplon Coved White School

Source: ALSDE

Turning to the high schools, You make comparisons among Grissom, Huntsville, and Butler, pointing out the differences between the enrollment numbers in the advanced courses between predominately white Grissom and Huntsville on the one hand, and predominately black Butler on the other. The chart below is pertinent to this point. It shows the percentage of students at each school who scored in Achievement Level IV, the highest achievement level as measured by the Alabama Reading and Math Test (the ARMT). Since these are the most advanced students, it is only logical that those selected for advanced courses would come mostly, if not

entirely, from among them. As the chart shows, we can only expect a few students from Butler to be selected for the advanced courses.

-------,

Percent ARMT Level IV

70
60
50
.....
c: 40
Q.)
1:
i;,j
Q.
20
10
0 Math

Read

Grissom

Huntsville

Butler

School

Source:ALSDE

2

Finally there are the elementary schools. Here you compare the relatively high numbers of students in five largely white schools enrolled in advanced courses with the smaller numbers in largely black Lakewood and Rolling Hills. You will probably anticipate what I might say here and I will spare you the needless redundancy. The chart below makes the point similar to that I have made regarding the elementary and high schools.

Elementary School SAT 10 Scores

100
90
~ 80
70
.... 60
c
Il.I 50
u 40
..
~ 30
Q.. 20
10
0 Math Score Read Score

School

Source:ALSDE

You also discuss the lack of black-white parity in advanced courses in schools that are predominately white. The data broken down by race in each school is incomplete, but would almost certainly show the same pattern as here if it were available.

You conclude your discussion of the disparities between the white and black schools in regard to advanced course offerings with the statement that, "Thus black students in the predominately black schools in the District were not afforded the same opportunity to enroll in advanced courses as their peers in the predominately white schools, and black students in predominately white schools were not enrolling in advanced courses at nearly the same rate as their white peers."

I think I am safe in saying that in order to enter an advanced course a student must (1) be an exceptional student, and (2) ask for such a course. You have not presented any evidence that any student has requested an advanced course and been denied, either because the course was not being offered or for any other reason. Further, you have given no evidence that where advanced courses are offered and the number of blacks enrolled is disproportionately low, that the disparity is due to the blacks being excluded from the courses or discouraged from enrolling. In brief, there is no evidence that opportunities are being denied blacks, and the leap from the observation of the number of black participants to the conclusion that the numbers prove a lack of opportunity is a non sequitur of monumental proportions.

3

I turn now to your discussion of student discipline. You correctly state that, "There are significant racial disparities in student discipline throughout the District, with black students bearing the weight of these disparities."

But "disparity" does not equal unfairness, arid once again we have a non sequitur. You have given no evidence that the procedure for enforcing discipline is more harsh or more lenient toward one race or the other. Nor have you cited any specific case in which the discipline has been unfair.

Look at the chart below. It shows the disparities between black and white adults being disciplined for serious crimes. Certainly the misbehavior of students is not felonious, and their offenses are not comparable to these. Still, the regrettable fact is that with this gross disparity between the races in the adult population there should be no incredulity in finding it in the younger generation. Note that these are crime rates, not absolute numbers.

Black Crime Rate as Multiple of White Crime Rate

16

~ ii

e, 10

~ 8

:: 6 ~ 4

2 o

.Multiple

Crime

Source: The Color of Crime, New Century Foundation, 2005

The black-white gap is highly visible here in Huntsville, but no more so than anywhere else. It is omnipresent in the country, and nowhere has anyone found a way to remove it. Richard Posner, the famed jurist of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, has remarked, that if a remedy could be found in a court order, such an order would already have been issued. And I can almost hear him say under his breath, " ... constitutional or not."

Whatever the roots of this disparity, they do not grow from anything school officials have done or have not done. If there is unfairness, it is because life is unfair. The unfairness is not manmade. There is manmade unfairness in this scenario, however, and it is this: It is unfair to the school system and to the community to demand that they correct a problem that is not of their making, and about which they can do little or nothing.

4

My closing comment will be directed to one of your closing comments. Near the end of your letter you write, "During my visit to the District in 2007, parents, students, and community members complained about the HV AC at Johnson High School and the lack of air conditioning there." It is ironic and amusing that this is the single concrete example you offer of something amiss. You are probably much younger than I am (most people are these days), so your experiences will not track mine. But when I was in school the very thought of an air conditioned classroom, if anyone was capable of such a thought, would have been preposterous. Even in college I only enjoyed such a luxury the last term before I graduated. To cite such a trivial fault looks to me like an admission of the paucity of substantive issues.

Should you have any questions for me I would be glad to address them.

Copies: 1. R. Brooks Supt. Moore

Dr. Richardson Ea. Mbr. Of na:

Mayor Battle

Sincerely,

~JAJ h Mf ~~ Ild'/J-~

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