Kim Severson and Robbie Brown reported on a chaotic Tuesday in Atlanta for Wednesday's New York Times, as teachers and administrators indicted for altering student test scores to inflate achievement levels either reported or failed to report to jail -- "Divisions Form In Atlanta As Bail Is Set In School Case." The Times willingly passed on the race card played by defenders of the accused, most of whom are black.
Confusion, anger and charges of racism played out at the Fulton County Jail here on Tuesday as the process of booking 35 educators in the nation’s largest school-cheating scandal began.
The sharpest focus was on Beverly L. Hall, the former school superintendent who rose through the education ranks in Newark and New York City and who was named superintendent of the year during her 12 years with the Atlanta district.
A grand jury on Friday charged Dr. Hall and the other educators with essentially running a conspiracy in which standardized test scores were secretly raised as a way to get bonuses and ensure job security.
The Times previously defended Hall, and even attacked National Public Radio for questioning her initial false vindication.
A photo caption over a collage of photos of some of the indicted teachers, most or all of whom were black, suggested racism was a factor: "Some members of the news media used a board to help them identify the teachers as they arrived at the jail. Critics said racism was playing a role in how the cases were being prosecuted."
There was no suggestion of the "racism" of cheating minority children out of an education for one's personal gain.
The Times devoted several more paragraphs to airing out the phony racism charges.
While defense lawyers worked to have their clients freed, a group of black clergy members and former educators spoke out, calling the charges and the bail extreme and an indication of a deeper, long-simmering racial divide in the city and the state.
The Rev. Timothy McDonald, a spokesman for the group Concerned Black Clergy, noted that the investigators were white and the accused were largely black.
“Look at the pictures of those 35,” he said. “Show me a white face. Let’s just be for real. You can call it racist, you can call it whatever you want, but this is overkill. We have seen people with much deeper crimes with much less bond set.”
In a blog post, former Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta on Tuesday called the fury surrounding the indictments “a public hanging” and called for fairness and justice as the case proceeds.
“Say a prayer for a fair trial for all those charged, say a prayer for every family and child who has been touched by the scandal and say a prayer to calm the public lynching mob mentality that has begun,” she wrote. “In times like these, reflection and soul-searching are powerful tools to ground our actions and decision-making.”