Jennifer Radcliffe, Houston Chronicle, August 31, 2007
A crudely made “Ghetto Handbook” distributed by a Houston school district police officer sparked angry words Thursday from leaders in the district and the community—both because of its language and the fact that no action was taken for three months.
“This publication was completely reprehensible and HISD condemns it in the strongest possible terms,” Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra said in a written statement.
The officer who first handed it out in May was suspended with pay this week, pending results of an investigation by the Houston Independent School District. Officials refused to identify him but said he was ordered to go to diversity training.
The eight-page handout, which includes a few grainy photographs, purports to offer definitions that will enable the reader to speak Ebonics “as if you just came out of the hood.” Ebonics is a nonstandard variety of English spoken by some black Americans.
The definitions include such terms as “foty: a 40-ounce bottle of beer”; “aks: to ask a question”; and “hoodrat: scummy girl.”
The booklet—subtitled “Wucha dun did now?”—names six HISD officers “and the entire day shift patrol” as contributors. District spokesman Terry Abbott said, however, that a preliminary investigation has cleared those officers of involvement.
One of the supervisors immediately collected the booklets, Abbott said.
But HISD leaders said they didn’t learn about the incident until an oral complaint was made to the district’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office on Aug. 13. It was not clear who filed the complaint, and district officials did not have an explanation for the delay in their learning about the incident.
Some community leaders expressed outrage.
“It does concern me,” said Kashmere High alumna Carolyn Miller, president of the HISD Council of PTAs. “That’s quite unfortunate that an officer felt a need to do that.”
Carol Mims Galloway, president of Houston’s NAACP chapter and a candidate for the school board, said the officer who created the document should be severely reprimanded, if not fired.
She also questioned whether a supervisor really collected all of the booklets.
Houston activist Quanell X said he will ask today that Chief Wiley and anyone involved in the incident be reprimanded.
“What I’m angry about is that the supervisor did not file the complaint himself,” he said. “The HISD police chief should have done more immediately, once this racist literature was brought to his attention.”