Civil Rights Group Protests Racially Incendiary Online Remarks By A Jefferson Parish School Psychologist
Mark Waller, Times-Picayune, May 21, 2012
A civil rights organization that has been issuing complaints about the Jefferson Parish school system’s treatment of black and special education students is adding to its grievances by spotlighting racially incendiary comments posted on the Internet by a school psychologist in Jefferson. The comments under scrutiny appeared on NOLA.com and Twitter.
The school psychologist, Mark Traina, has worked with alternative schools and in central administration with the process of referring children to those campuses. Traina argued on Monday that his online opinions are well-reasoned and that they do not reflect on the way the school system operates.
“The Southern Poverty Center knows that these allegations are ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE!,” Traina wrote in an education forum on NOLA.com last week, using his own name as he criticized the center’s earlier allegations. “This is just another way to harass the Jefferson Parish Public School System. One only needs to read the Times Picayune to see who the real trouble makers are. Sadly, it is disproportionately young black males. Everyone knows that our jails throughout the United States are disproportionately filled with black people. Why would the rate be any different in an educational environment?”
He cited what he said are statistics about high incarceration rates among African-Americans and high crime in predominantly black neighborhoods.
“I live in Slidell land I MUST admit it is one of the safest places that I have ever lived in the State of Louisiana,” he wrote. “All I can say is, ‘Thank God for Lake Pontchartrain.’“
His posts on Twitter, also using his real name, are more heated, including a January comment that, “Young Black Thugs who won’t follow the law need to be put down not incarcerated. Put down like the Dogs they are!”
Remarking in March about the Republican presidential primaries, he wrote, “I grew up in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana — I am a Wallace Man at Heart!”
“I don’t represent the Jefferson Parish school system,” Traina said. “I represent Mark Traina. I make that very clear in my comments.”
“Everything I said is fact-based, backed up by data,” he said. “I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body. I’m not a racist. I’m a realist.”
“I did not intend for my message to come across as being insensitive or harsh,” he wrote. “I am a little frustrated with the way the Southern Poverty Law Center interprets data.”
He continued, “I have often encouraged people of all races to get their children out of run down urban environments. Move to the country where there is more open spaces, fresher air, less crime and safer schools. I truly love people of all races, creeds and colors and I have dedicated my like (sic) to serving children. Over the years I have seen so many young lives destroyed by drugs and crime in our communities.”
Acting schools Superintendent James Meza said that he learned about the issue involving Traina on Monday. He said the U.S. Department of Education’s office of civil rights is sending representatives to visit the school system this week as the agency investigates the center’s filings.