BET.com talks to the principal of one of the nation’s top schools after learning it could be shut down because it wasn't racially diverse.
If you’re a student at Capital Preparatory Magnet School, your day starts as early as 7:45 a.m. and ends around 6:10 p.m. That’s longer than most Americans' work day of 8.7 hours. With the option of being on the robotics team, participating in student government or a wide-range of other clubs or sports teams, you’re bound to be pretty active. Plus, with a 100 percent graduation rate, at Capital Prep they’ll see that you advance to a four-year college.
“100 percent go on to college because they know, and we know, that they’re going. Everything we do is designed behind that goal,” said proud founder and principal Dr. Steve Perry of his Hartford, Connecticut, school.
Perry, however, wasn’t too happy when he received a call during his spring break vacation in St. Thomas letting him know that his school would be shut down. Why? Because it wasn’t white enough.
“My first reaction was no, no, no, they weren’t gonna close us. Then when I got back I got a letter from the commissioner saying that I had been recalcitrant to bring white students in,” he says.
Despite how well they were performing, Capital Prep was being put on notice that they would be closed if they did not promptly act to increase their current 11 out of the required 25 percent white students. Because it is a magnet school, or a “public-school, prep-school,” as Perry calls it, the Department of Education requires that magnet schools must, for FY2011 and future years, “promote diversity.” Data shows that diversity in classrooms can improve educational outcomes, promote cross-racial understanding, break down racial stereotypes and prepare students for an increasingly diverse workforce.
Perry whole-heartedly agrees that multi-race classes are beneficial, but for Capital Prep, the reality is “Parents don’t want to send their white kids to school in the ‘hood,” he told us at BET.com.
It was so difficult to find white students in a neighborhood where 41.4 percent of residents are Latino, 35.8 percent are Black, and 29 percent of families are living below the poverty level, that Perry had to hire a recruiter to find white students.
Next year, Capital Prep. will increase its student population and become a Pre-K through 12th grade school (it currently serves grades six through 12).
“Now we have more white kids coming in than any other magnet school. We’re at about 30 percent white. We went from last place to first place.” Perry says. He almost finds himself in a catch-22, however. As soon as the number of white students increased, neighborhood parents started to complain that he was keeping Black students out. His response? “That’s ridiculous. I love them all.”
Magnet school regulations require Capital Prep to keep a diverse population. Unfortunately in this case it’s at the expense of minorities in the urban Hartford area who may have never had the opportunity otherwise to receive a quality education.