Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 26 Apr 2007

Our sonís teachers are accusing him of causing trouble in class. He says they are racist.

Hillary's Advice

Your son says he is doing nothing wrong, and that teachers are picking on him because he is black. You donít like this kind of talk, but say your son is no troublemaker, so could he be right?

The truth almost certainly lies somewhere in the triangle between your son, his teachers and you. Studies show that teachers can indeed be racist towards black teenage boys, coming down hard on their behaviour while not expecting much from them academically.

At the same time, it could be that your angelic son, though good at home, is quite different at school. It isnít unknown for boys of his age to start to swagger and show-off in class.
But twelve is an extremely dangerous age to go awry. Boys who start to drift at this point often never get back on track. So you must do something.

Talk to both your son and his class teacher to find out exactly what the so-called troublemaking amounts to. If it does look like bad behaviour, make it very clear to your son that you expect better from than this, and that you will be waiting to hear of an improvement. If it looks like discrimination, tell the school you expect it to stop, monitor the situation, and go to the head if necessary.

Back your son to the hilt, but also talk with him about appropriate behaviour for different circumstances. He could be acquiring some unhelpful ideas about what it means to be black, which you will need to untangle.