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12 November 2004: No Wonder There's an Achievement Gap (3 of 4)
Larry knew he would be working on his story until recess and then rejoin the class. When he came back to our room five minutes after recess and in tears, I knew something very ugly had happened. He explained to me that the white school secretary had “yelled” at him for disrupting his class and being sent to the office, and she wouldn’t let him go out for recess because he was “in trouble.” I was in shock. What had I done to indicate that Larry was being disciplined? What had he done to warrant such an assumption? I certainly had not requested any disciplinary action be taken by the office staff. I thought that I had made it clear that he needed quiet. My error, I suppose, was in what I did not say. You could fault me because my note did not specify that Larry was making a remarkably responsible and mature decision to leave his peers and work independently. You could say that if my note had been more specific, this wouldn’t have happened. You could also say that if Larry was white, the secretary wouldn’t have made the assumption that she did.