The series of field trips for the third grade students were designed to give black students an opportunity to visualize themselves as one day becoming college students, the director for African-American student/parent services with the South Bend Community Schools Corporation, Dr. G. David Moss, told ABC57. He told the local news outlet that it is because black students are statistically less likely to think of going to college as a feasible possibility.
Some parents are okay with the decision: “I don't think it's a race issue, I think they're giving black children a chance,” one told ABC57.
But many local parents are outraged by the segregation, including parents of children who were included on the tour, saying that all children should be going and that not including everyone risks fostering intolerance and misunderstandings.
“We should be able to do everything together and not separate,” stated parent Charles Yost.
“I feel like all kids should be going,” Deirdra Mullings who has a son going on one of the field trips told the news outlet.
“It creates a double standard,” Kelley Garing, another parent, asserted.
Dr. Moss maintains that it was never his intention to offend anyone and that his job is to think specifically about the area’s African-American children.
“I was hired to look at the issues facing African-American kids in the South Bend Community Schools Corporation and my job specifically says that I need to develop programs and develop strategies to help these kids and their families become more successful academically,” he stated in response to the criticism.
In 2012, 34.5% of the children attending South Bend Community Schools Corporation institutions were black, while 37.1% were white. The South Bend Tribune reports that despite being relatively close in number, black students are disproportionately suspended, labeled as special education, and issued citations by school resource officers. They have also noted a significant achievement gap.
"I understand Dr. Moss is trying to do what he was hired to do, but that is exactly why I voted against creating this department — because of just this type of controversy… We are in the 21st century," school board member Bill Sniadecki wrote in an email obtained by the South Bend Tribune, "and we should not have "Whites Only or Blacks Only" in any situation."
Following national media attention, the field trips have been postponed pending restructuring by Superintendent Carole Schmidt. Schmidt clarified that the events had not been vetted by her, as required, and would be made available to all students, regardless of race.
“It was never meant to be exclusionary,” Moss stated. “It was only meant to support and give these kids what they need to think positively about themselves and their future.”