Fort Mill students deserve better

FORT MILL -- I have to tell you, Fort Mill school district parents, the poor are not contagious. And neither are the kids who are being categorized and called, by your school district and some of you, "nonwhite."

My kids, three of those "nonwhites" you talk about, and the children of my neighbors from India two doors down, and the two kids whose parents are from Africa down the block, are not chess pieces to be moved about after anger is expressed by many parents of "white" children.

Some parents have concerns that too many kids who are poor or nonwhite or both will go to a new elementary school in Fort Mill if new reassignment plans are not changed immediately.

These parents who are complaining are not bigots. My kids go to school with their kids, ride the school bus with them, play with them and learn to read in school with them, go to their birthday parties. Parents who love their kids so much and care about their schools so much are terrific. They help make Fort Mill schools, by any statistical measure, among the best or just plain the best in South Carolina.

But the idea that schools that have more blacks or Hispanics or any kids of color, or have more kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch, would not be as good as any other school, is just plain wrong.

Believing old brutal stereotypes about color and class is stupid. It is done out of fear.

In a flier circulated to hundreds of homes from where the new Sugar Creek Elementary School would draw students next year, from people claiming to speak with a unified voice, who said they met with parents from many neighborhoods, the following was written for all to read: "This may affect the value of your child's education as well as the value of your home!"

That flier graciously did say all schools would benefit from "a positive presence of diversity," but all schools should have the same amount of that diversity.

I read that as: "We don't want any more of those kids than anybody else."

The school district is 79 percent white students and 82 percent students who are not eligible for free or reduced lunch.

The new Sugar Creek would be, depending on the options on the table, 63 percent to 65 percent white students and 73 percent to 76 percent students not eligible for free or reduced lunch. That amount of nonwhite and poor, for these parents, is unacceptable.

That flier was attached to that little flag on the side of my mailbox. My youngest will go to that new school. I have carried the flier in my pocket every day since. I show it to people and try not to yell. I often fail.

I went to that standing-room-only school board meeting Oct. 6 where so many had concerns. I stood, too. Almost all people who wrote their names on the sign-in sheet listed their neighborhood under a box for "representing." The people wanted to show where they lived.

I wrote "My children" in that box.

Some have written to the school board and district to say those parents upset over race and class in this reassignment do not speak for them. I salute them. Count me in.

The question right now is: Will the Fort Mill school district administration and school board stand up for all children, including the "nonwhite" and "poor," or will they yield to those fueled by ignorance and fear?

In Fort Mill right now, those who want to limit the number of children not like their own in elementary school would want only so many black children of a single mother who at times needs food stamps to feed that kid. Some of those kids are all right, these people say, but we don't need more than any other school has.

Those parents would want only so many of that kind of kid, who sure can make good grades if given the chance at terrific schools, then go on to college and law school and even higher. But as we've seen, that kid, whether you like his politics as an adult, agree with him or not, could end up 40 years later as one of two choices for a big job.

The job is president of the United States. And that little black kid whose mom needed food stamps -- a kid who would be called "nonwhite" and perhaps "eligible for free or reduced lunch" -- has an odd name.

You may have heard it, though.

That man's name is Barack Obama.