Students’ refusal to state their race on forms is frustrating school officials, reports McClatchy News.
SACRAMENTO — About half of the 37 students in teacher Jeanne Kirchofer’s Laguna Creek High School classroom, who span nearly every combination of race and ethnicity, have joined the growing number of California studentsn who decline to state a race on official forms and tests.
“We shouldn’t be judged by our race,” said senior Jessica Mae Belcher, 17, whose roots are African and Cherokee. She prefers “none of the above” because “we’re all different, but we’re all the same, too.”
From 2006 to 2009, the number of Elk Grove Unified students whose race is listed as “multiple/no response” went from 500 to 6,200. Statewide, there’s been a 70 percent increase in “multiple/no response” students in three years.
The U.S. Department of Education wants school officials to “eyeball” students who decline to state and check a box for them, reports McClatchy. In order to identify racial/ethnic achievement gaps, “the agency is pressing schools to identify all students by race in 2010-11 or face penalties.”
California doesn’t force school officials to assign a racial or ethnic identity to students who prefer to be uncategorized. At Laguna Creek High, some students say they prefer to identify as “American.”
Freshman Felicia Forte, 14, traces her roots to France, Africa and Jamaica. “In the end, we’re all American,” she said. “Race doesn’t matter. Especially on a test, it makes us feel like they’re going to categorize us or stereotype us.”
“Usually I bubble in ‘Mexican,’ but I don’t speak Spanish, so I feel weird about identifying as Mexican,” said Angellinda Gonzalez, 15. “But I’m still proud of my culture. We really shouldn’t judge people because they are a different race.”
More California college students also are declining to state a race or ethnicity. That may reflect a rise in multi-ethnic students — or a fear of discrimination. Nationally, “other” is up 25 percent on the SAT.