Saturday, June 7, 2014

April 1987 PISD Discrimination Order

PISD ordered to recruit blacks

A federal court judge has issued an injunction against the Pasadena ISD, restraining the district from discriminating against and ordering it to increase efforts in the recruitment of black teaching applicants.

Those efforts, however, are not to be construed as establishing any particular quotas, the injunction reads. It further states that the objective of the decree are to be treated as guidelines in the measurements of PISD's good faith efforts in discharging the duties imposed. 

"We certainly can live with it," said Glenn White, PISD's assistant superintendent of personnel. "I've always looked for good teachers, regardless of their race. Now I'll have to go out of my way to look for good black teachers."

The injunction was issued Saturday, along with a 61-page order containing the findings of the judge based on a 19-day trial which ended in February. 

During the trial, the U.S. Department of Justice held that Pasadena had from 1977 to 1984 engaged in disparate treatment against black applicants and that the district's practice was to grant preference to those having previous contacts with the district.

In his order, Judge James DeAnda upheld that Pasadena did engage in race discrimination against blacks but that the practice did not cause a "disparate impact" on black applicants. He also stated that the government could not show that PISD's "insider contacts" preference was a regularly observed hiring practice.

The Justice Department had attempted to prove that preference was granted to those applicants that had attended school in the district or had other contacts, such as relatives working in the district. These applicants were predominantly white.

Other stipulations
The injunction, which will go into effect May 16, allows for many remedial actions to compensate for past discrimination.

Among them is an order that PISD contact on a regular basis directors to obtain names of well qualified black teacher applicants on file at the respective districts. All applicants referred must then be contacts and invited to apply to PISD for consideration. 

The district must also begin a relationship with Texas Southern University, a predominantly black school, to recruit students teachers and teacher applicants.  

White said he attended teacher fairs at TSU and Prarie View A&M, another predominantly black school, in early April in expectance of the judge's injunction. He said several teaching applications were distributed. 

Also, as a result of the injunction, PISD must attach a letter to teaching applications, stating that that the district is an equal opportunity employer operating under the decree. 

To assure greater accuracy in its records, PISD must provide a space on its application form for identification of race, but stating that is requested for record keeping purposes only.

The injunction also allows that thte Justice Department may recover court costs from the district and that costs should be filed by May 4.

In an attempt to lessen costs, PISD School Supt. Dr. E.T. Lon Luty met with Justice Department attorney Robert Moore prior to Moore's submission of his decree proposal. Luty had asked that a ceiling of $600,000 be placed on additional expenditures in the district.

The district has spent over $1 million in attorney's fees. 

It is hoped by the district that it will be liable only for costs associated with revamping its recruitment procedures. 

The conditions of the decree pertain primarily to the first stage of a two-stage trial. The first stage concerned the issues of whether PISD had engaged in disparate treatment and to what relief he Justice Department is entitled. Stage II is expected to address individual claims of discrimination. The decree does state that a special master will be appointed to govern matters with regard to Stage II proceedings. The Justice Department is to issue a proposed order appointing the special master by May 4. The decree will become effective May 16. The school district has until April 27 to file any objections to the decree.

Economy may dictate fewer hirings this year
A federal court injunction mandating that Pasadena ISD actively recruit black teachers comes at a time when little recruitment at all is foreseen. 

Just last week, district administration and the board of trustees' budget committee discussed a plan that could produce 50 surplus teachers on the intermediate level alone. In addition, enrollment decreases on the high school and elementary level leaves the district with an excess of 26 teachers. 

Last week's discussion centered around the possibility of having intermediate teachers increase their teaching loads from five to six periods a day. This is the suggested plan by administration to address a foreseen funding decrease by the state. 

The plan could save the district $1.5 million. This, coupled with a five-cent tax increase and $3 million in across-the-board reductions, is expected to generate the $6.9 million shortfall predicted. 

Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Glenn White said even if such a plan were adopted, it would not mean any teacher layoffs. It could, however, mean the reassignment of teachers. 

Typically, the school district will hire in excess of 200 teachers each year. It is unknown at this time what the district's needs will be for the coming year, White said. 

Among the district's 1800 teachers, 51 are black. Of the student population, about 3 percent are black. [ETA: out of curiosity, I looked up the demographics of PISD on their website. The latest figures are from 2008 and are: African-American -7.4%; Asian - 3.5%; Hispanic – 77.2%; White - 11.7%. Following the ethnic breakdown but in the same column, Free/Reduced – 75%]

While the federal court ruling does not place any quota of black teachers the district much eploy, it is expecting an aggressive recruitment program of well-qualified black teachers.

White said he will show a significant increase in the number of black teachers employed by the district, a task which may be made more difficult by economic circumstances. 

Racism 'thing of past' say locals amidst injunction
By Floretta Bush

While some offocials say a federal court injunction ordering the Pasadena ISD to actively recruit black teacher applicants could create a blemish on the "lily white" reputation the district appears to share with the city of Pasadena, most contend that the complexions of both entities have changed over the years.

The issue is one that was raised, with little effect, by PISD defense attorneys in the discrimination trial which eventually led to the injunction. During testimony, a study presented by a TSU professor showed that "many blacks perceive Pasadena as racist and hence PISD, and do not apply to PISD for that reason." PISD alleged that many blacks are discouraged from applying to the district by the city of Pasadena's reputation as a white, "redneck" or racist community.

PISD used the study to justify the fact that black applicants accounted for only 5.2 percent of applicants from 1977 to 1984 when the labor market for PISD according to government statistics, would not constitute less than 10.9 percent black applicants.

The court ruled, however, that any chilling effect of the Pasadena community's reputation on black applicants was not sufficient to account for statistical discrepancies in both the number of blacks that have applied and the number hired from those.

"The only credible explanation for the discrepancy is the chilling effect of PISD's actions have had on black applicants," wrote federal judge James De Anda in his ruling.

"It's unfortunate that this case makes it appear the district is still incredibly biased," said Kirk Lewis, administrative assistant to the superintendent. "I'm really hurt that the people will see the headlines and say that the district is a prejudiced place."

Over the years many have seen the district as just that, based on the reputation of Pasadena, after which the district was named and where  the district's administrative offices are located, say observers.

Reasons for stigma varied
The reasons for the city's and thus the district's reputation are varied, say Pasadena Planning Director Charles Welsh.

First, there are simply not many blacks in the community. A 1980 census reveals only about 1 percent of the city's population is black. Whether this is due to lack of a welcoming attitude is speculation, he said. Many contend a lack of public transportation has dissuaded minorities from locating in the city.

The operation for several years of a KKK office in the city also did very little to propel the city as an equal opportunity community, he said.

In addition, Pasadena has long been noted as a "redneck" community, given that label by the number of blue collar workers, many of whom ride around in stereotypical pickup tracks, and also by the existence of Gilley's, a country and western club that placed Pasadena in national limelight as a booze drinking, bull riding center.

Welsh says he is optimistic a softening of the prejudice stigma is occurring, although the evolution is experiencing a slow progress. The progress began, he said, as in towns across the country, with Civil Rights laws in the 1960s.

It was in 1964 that the city stopped its desegregation of races, with the drafting of a new city charter. The previous charter, dated 1943, specifically provided for segregation. This section in the charter provided for "use of separate blocks for residences, places of abode, places of public amusement, churches, schools and places of assembly by members of the white and colored races," The term colored race included all persons of African descent.

Under state law, enacted in 1927, cities were allowed to provide for the segregation of blacks and whites. That law was repealed in 1969, 15 years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared state laws requiring the segregation in separate public schools unlawful.

It was in 1966, according to court records, that the first black students was admitted to Pasadena schools. Prior to that time, say school officials, black students in the district were buses at PISD's expense to the neighboring Galena Park school district, which had separate schools for blacks and whites. 
Rayburn High School accepted the district's first black student, the grandson of a Pasadena church custodian. 

"Prior to that time, blacks in the district "just didn't present themselves" said Jack Donnell, assistant superintendent of Operations, who has lived in Pasadena and worked for the school district since 1949.

Very little fanfare accompanied the admittance of the black teen, remembers school officials. 

Also accompanied by little fanfare was the candidacy in 1975 of a KKK member for the school board. 

"People did take notice," recalls Donnell. "Everybody treated him courteously although most didn't agree with what he said. I don't think anybody was proud of it."

The polls proved that Scott M. Nelson was not taken very seriously. Out of 2,808 votes cast for the sought position, Nelson received 56 of those votes, nine of which were cast at the Dobie poll.  

In 1972, the district hired its first black teacher, Clarence Mallet, a vocational education teacher in the metals shop at Dobie High School.

"He was not only out first black teacher, but our first black applicant as well," said Glen White, assistant superintendent for Personnel. 

It would less than a decade later that the U.S. Justice Department would launch an investigation that would lead to over $1 million in attorney's fees and yet-to-be determined costs for individual damages. 

What now?
The injunction should not have a great effect on either the district or the city, say officials. 

Despite the close link between the two entities, Pasadena Mayor Jon Ray Harrison says the ruling should have no more effect on Pasadena than on Houston or South Houston where some PISD schools are located. 

"PISD has been a good child and I don't think this is going to disturb that," says Harrison, who feels any stigma still hanging over the city is unjustified. 

School officials are confident the public and other school districts will not hold the injunction over PISD's head. 

The majority of the people understood what happened and are supportive," suggest Lewis. "We're no more guilty than any other business or any other school district in regard to our hiring practices. We were not prejudiced. It was just that the practice worked out that way."

PISD has long been suspected by neighboring school districts, says Dunnell, primarily because of its strict policies and abilities to maintain discipline. This issue, he said, my be but one more episode depicting PISD's determination to stand up for its beliefs. 

In the 1970s the episode focused on dress codes which PISD strictly enforced. It was also during this time that the term "redneck" became prevalent.

"If hair was too long, or the dress was too short, we sent them home," recalls former board member J.D. Bruce. "We stayed in court a pretty good little bit, but other school districts were envious because of our policies and out ability to enforce them."

As for those directly affected, White says he expects an initial surge of black teacher applicants as a result of the injunction. "It will cause one little fling and then it will level off," he projects. 

Meanwhile, White and his staff, under the injunction, will be visiting predominantly black schools to encourage blacks to apply to the district. 

The district as a whole will keep its head high, says Lewis. "We will weather it," he said. "We will have to work out way through it, be honest and deal with people with honesty and integrity."

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