Shorts 14.4

Unequal Justice For Minority Youth

At every stage of the juvenile justice process and in every offense category, African-American juveniles are detained at substantially higher rates than white youths, according to the report. For example, when white and minority juveniles with no prior admissions were charged with the same offense, African Americans were six times more likely to be jailed than whites, and Latinos were three times more likely to be jailed.

The report, “And Justice for Some: Differential Treatment of Minority Youth in the Justice System,” was issued by Building Blocks for Youth, an alliance of research, community, and law-enforcement personnel, and is based on data from the U.S. Department of Justice’s office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention. The report can be accessed at:


The Philadelphia school board has abandoned a proposed contract with Coca-Cola, in what the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education says “may signify a turning point in the battle against exclusive cola contracts.”

Speaking at the February school board meeting, one parent said the proposed contract “threatens what remains of the separation between public education and corporate interests and undermines our children’s health.” Even if the Coke vending machines were to sell only juice, she said, they’d be sending the message that drinking Coke is a good thing.

The $43 million contract would have been one of the largest beverage contracts with a school district in the country, as reported in the Philadephia Inquirer. It would have placed vending machines in all of the elementary schools and doubled the total number of vending machines in city schools to more than 1,300.

While some board members wanted to hold out for an even better deal from Coke, the opposition of parents and other board members was enough to kill the proposal.

Contact the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education at


A business-sponsored group in Massachusetts is apparently resorting to intimidation to try to squelch boycotts of the state’s high-stakes tests.

Mass Insight Education, a business-sponsored group, has sent a statement to school districts across the state recommending a crackdown on boycotts of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).

In the statement, Mass Insight worries that boycotts will make students who choose to take the tests, students “who understand the value of a true measurement of their progress, begin to question that understanding.”

Mass Insight encourages superintendents to dock the grades of students who boycott the test. Docking grades will send the message that “these tests are important and provide a useful measurement of how well our students are performing.” And, says Mass Insight, it will help districts avoid laying the groundwork for larger boycotts next year or creating martyrs of suspended boycotters.


The National Council of La Raza has issued a statement critical of the growing reliance on high-stakes testing.

The statement, issued Apr. 4, calls upon Congress to adopt a proposal by Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) that would prohibit schools from placing children in a specific program or denying them a high school diploma on the basis of a single test.

“While we believe that testing is an important and necessary part of the educational process, Senator Wellstone’s bill would shift the focus of our education system from over-reliance on these tests and place it where it belongs – on improving student achievement,” the statement says.

The statement was issued by Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy organization.


Arizona officials are prohibiting the public from viewing the state’s graduation test, arguing that they want to reuse some of the questions on future tests.

Previously, the public could look at the test although they couldn’t talk about it or copy it. The Arizona Republic filed suit against that policy in 1999, arguing that the test should be fully open to the public as part of a commitment to “open government.”

On Apr. 21, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Foreman agreed with the newspaper, in part because the state already allowed people to see the exam. The state is appealing Judge Foreman’s decision. It has also stopped all viewing of the test, known as Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS), apprently to bolster its view that the test is private.

“State Board of Education officials have proven themselves to be more childish than the kids whose lives they are supposed to enrich,” Jeff Dozbaba, deputy managing editor of the Arizona Republic, said in response to the clampdown on public viewing of the test.