There was a fight in the stands during a high school basketball game last week. This week, students gathered to describe how the school has made their lives better. Both events happened at Scott High School, but neither defines the school.
A fight can happen anywhere. But this fight was between two African-American girls at a school where many students are poor and the on-time graduation rate is less than 70 percent — a school with a rather rough-and-tumble reputation.
Would police have pepper-sprayed the crowd at a fight at, say, St. John’s Jesuit High School? Would a suburban district discuss whether it has a policy about using chemical sprays on students?
Ottawa Hills High School employs two, sometimes more, security people at basketball games. There were 14 officers at Scott, and Toledo Public Schools officials said they may need more at “hot” games.
Stereotypes matter, sadly. The two teenagers, who were led away in handcuffs, reinforced a lot of them.
But another Scott was on display this week, when 25 students faced news media to defend their high school and to say: We are not your stereotype.
The Scott they know, the one they want you to know, sponsors the Student African American Brotherhood and Young Women of Excellence. The Scott they know gives them the knowledge and strength to resist the allure of the streets.
Their school gives them a platform to discuss the hard path from their daily reality to the American dream. Their school teaches them the skills to overcome barriers and break out of stereotypes.
Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, both Scotts are real. But like the characters in the novel, neither by itself is Scott.
Those who see the fulfillment of their stereotypes in the altercation need to broaden their vision. Otherwise, they may conclude that nothing can change.
And people who are involved in positive programs at Scott High School may need to broaden their vision as well. Otherwise, they could conclude that they’re doing enough.
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