School field trip causes controversy among some parents

A South Bend school field trip turned into a conversation about race after students at local primary schools were offered a chance to visit three area colleges. The trips are only for African-American students.

Some parents have told ABC 57 they believe this is discrimination but the school corporation says this is all just a misunderstanding and it is not meant to be a discriminatory trip.

“We should be able to do everything together and not separate,” says parent Charles Yost.

“I feel like all kids should be going,” says Deirdra Mullings who has a son going on one of the field trips.

“It creates a double standard,” says parent Kelley Garing.

Dr. G. David Moss is the director for African-American student/parent services with the South Bend Community Schools Corporation. He says statistically black students are less likely to think of college as a real possibility.

“I want these third graders to have the opportunity to think of themselves as college students,” says Dr. Moss.

Dr. Moss says that's why he organized this initiative for those students to visit higher education institutions around South Bend.

“We take them to a college campus, have them meet African-American students, modeling the idea that as a black person, college is a great place,” says Dr. Moss.

But that didn't sit well with some South Bend parents who say, these trips should include everyone.

“I just think it breeds intolerance and creates misunderstandings,” says Garing.

On the flip side, one mother says she understands Dr. Moss' mission.

“I don't think it's a race issue, I think they're giving black children a chance,” says Erika Herron.

Herron says, this is a good thing for black students in her community. “It's giving them a chance. It's letting them know that there's something else out here besides being out here in these streets,” says Herron.

Dr. Moss says this was never meant to offend anyone.

“It was not meant to be exclusionary. It was only meant to support and give these kids what they need to think positively about themselves and about their future,” says Dr. Moss.

He says it's just job to solely think about South Bend's African-American youth.

“I was hired to look at the issues facing African-American kids in the South Bend Community Schools Corporation and my job specifically says that I need to develop programs and develop strategies to help these kids and their families become more successful academically,” says Dr. Moss.

And while this still leaves some parents feeling left out, if anything it might have at least started a necessary conversation.

The first field trip is scheduled for Thursday April 16th, where third graders will be visiting Ivy Tech.

The 7 schools involved in this initiative are:

  • Kennedy
  • McKinley
  • Nuner
  • Lincoln
  • Hamilton
  • Tarkington
  • Coquillard

Here is the email sent from Dr. Moss to parents and faculty explaining the field trips:

Attached you will find the schedule for our Mindset Initiative visit to Bethel College for Monday, April 20th.

As communicated, my office will take care of ordering buses. There will be snacks provided for the students. Parents are invited to attend and they can meet us at the main circle on Bethel's campus at 9:30 to participate in the tour. Please have the appropriate number of your staff attend this event with your students.

I trust you to determine that number. Other than your staff, those in attendance will be: Kelly Staples (my administrative assistant) or myself; one or two staff persons from Bethel College; and any parents who decide to participate.

Attached you will also find resources (videos and written) related to the Growth Mindset. The videos will take less than 20 minutes to view and will provide the participating teachers with a great introduction to this important theory of intelligence.

The goals of the Mindset Initiative are three fold:

1) To create possible selves for your 3rd graders that include college attendance; 2) To help your 3rd graders understand that effort is more important than being smart; and 3)To enhance the educational relationship between these 3rd graders and their teachers.

The schedule for the day will be as follows:

9:10 Pick up at schools
9:30 Arrival at Bethel College
9:35 Begin Campus Tour
10:00 Move to cafeteria
10:10 College student stories/inspiration
10:30 Growth mindset explanation and hands-on activity
10:55 Return to buses
11:15 Arrival at schools

I have developed two hands on activities, but depending on our timing, we may only be able to accomplish one of them.

You may use either or both of these activities in helping these third grade students to teach these concepts to their peers.

The first activity involves the use of small beach balls with both fixed (yellow) and growth (green) mindset messages printed on them. The students sit in a circle each holding a ball. A student with a fixed mindset ball reads the message on it out loud.

Then the counteracting message from a growth mindset ball is read out loud by another student.

The growth mindset message is discussed briefly and then all the students repeat that message out loud. After this, they toss the balls across the circle to each other. Gather the balls that are not caught and start over again.

The second activity will involve simple vignettes that the students will act out.

These vignettes will focus on 1) recognizing fixed and growth mindset messages; 2) the importance of exercising your brain like a muscle; and 3) the fact that everyone can grow his/her brain.

The college students will practice a vignette of their choosing with a small group of third graders.

The third graders will be encouraged to "ham it up" and then perform it for all the other students.

If time permits, a brief discussion will follow each vignette performance. I have attached copies of those vignettes for your information.

As you can see, these are very simple . . . so feel free to develop your own, or to have your students create their own.

When the students return to school it is expected that they and their teachers will work together to teach the entire class some of what the students learned about the growth mindset at Bethel College.

It is also expected that the students who visited Bethel will participate in the delivery of this information to the rest of the class.

This will take some creativity and possibly an extra meeting or two to coordinate. In line with the growth mindset philosophy, it is the effort that is most valued in this exercise.

Please let me know what questions you might have.


David G. David Moss, Ph.D. Director, African-American Student/Parent Services Director

UPDATE 4/20/15: Superintendent announces future field trips will be for all students

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