Arundel apologizes after students shown test during lesson on racial differences

A test shown to Arundel High School students as part of a lesson about differences in racial perception raised objections from parents and prompted apologies from the Anne Arundel County school system, officials acknowledged Thursday.

According to an Oct. 4 letter from interim Superintendent Mamie Perkins to the Anne Arundel school board, Arundel High School teachers showed juniors and seniors the 1971 Chitling Test of Intelligence, created by African-American sociologist Adrian Dove to demonstrate cultural differences between races.

The 15-question test, however, contains inflammatory language that some find offensive. For example, one question asks what are the "Dixie Hummingbirds?" and offers the following choices: (a) part of the KKK, (b) a swamp disease, (c) a modern gospel group, (d) a Mississippi Negro paramilitary group, (e) Deacons.

The test was among several materials shown to students Aug. 28 to prompt a discussion about cultural bias and "allow students to get to know one another while examining bias in their own thinking and the thinking of others," Perkins wrote in the letter. "The intent was to foster an understanding that bias can impact some cultures without other cultures even realizing it."

But after two parents contacted Arundel High Principal Sharon Stratton about the test, she apologized for the test's being shown to students in a school assembly, Perkins wrote in the letter. The school also emailed parents about the issue.

In a Sept. 19 letter to principals, Andrea Kane, the system's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, pointed out the school system's policy prohibiting instructional materials' being used without school board approval.

The Anne Arundel County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also contacted Perkins, said Jacqueline Boone Allsup, the group's president and a member of a group formed as a result of an Office for Civil Rights agreement with the school system to address perceived racial disparities.

"To look at the test and see what it says, we were quite alarmed because of the impact it would have on students, how it could affect their self-esteem and the way they view themselves," she said.

A county schools spokesman, Bob Mosier, said students did not take the test but "that does not change the fact that it was a mistake to do it."

The school system investigated the incident and took appropriate actions, he said.

"There was no malicious intent or racial motivation behind any of these lessons," Mosier added. "We looked at what happened, learned from it and we've moved forward."

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