Michael Brown, the youth who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, graduated from Normandy High School. You may recall reading here that the Normandy School District, which was 98% African-American, was merged by the state with the nearby Wellston School District, which was 100% African-American.
Michael’s graduation picture was taken in March 2014. Why so far ahead of the graduation date? The high school had only two graduation gowns, and they had to be shared by the entire class. Mark Sumner tells the story of Michael Brown’s high school on The Daily Kos, and it is heartbreaking.
“The grinding poverty in Mike’s world only allowed Normandy High School to acquire two graduation gowns to be shared by the entire class. The students passed a gown from one to the other. Each put the gown on, in turn, and sat before the camera to have their graduation photographs taken. Until it was Mike’s turn.
“What kind of American school would have to share robes across the entire senior class?
The kind that’s been the subject of a lot of attention from the state board of education.
“This district was created by merging two of the poorest, most heavily minority districts around St. Louis—Normandy and Wellston. The poverty rate for families sending their kids to Normandy Schools was 92 percent. At Wellston School District, the poverty rate was 98 percent. Every single student in the Wellston district was African American.
“Still, the state education board voted to merge the districts in 2010 (the first change to state school district boundaries in thirty-five years). Plagued by white flight, crashing property values that destroyed tax revenues, and a loss of state funds as the better-off residents of the area sent their children to private schools, the resulting district isn’t just short of gowns, it’s short of everything. Residents of the district voted again and again to raise their own property taxes, until their rates were actually the highest in the state, but a higher percentage of nothing was still nothing, and district revenues trended steadily down.”
“So who actually runs Michael Brown’s school district? Well, the president of the board of education is Peter F. Herschend of Branson, Missouri. Herschend isn’t a former teacher, or a former principal, and doesn’t have any training in the education field. He’s the owner of Herschend Family Entertainment, which runs Silver Dollar City and other amusement parks. He’s also one of the biggest contributors to the Republican Party in the state.
“So, when you’re wondering who runs Michael Brown’s school district—when you’re wondering who’s in control of an urban, minority district so poor that the students have only two graduation gowns to share—it’s a white Republican millionaire from out state.”