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Racial Disparity in School Athletics

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Racial disparity of lacrosse in school athletics

“For years, parents and educators in poverty-ridden pockets of the South sensed the public schools were shortchanging their children. And they were right (Cenziper, Mellnik, 2013)
Many public schools lack the resources to expose students to the world beyond their own poverty-stricken communities. The large disparity among schools in areas such as academics, advantages in higher education, and extracurricular activities particularly sports is based on the economics of the surrounding area. Funding for sports programs are the first to go when a school has difficulty meeting financial obligations despite it being proven that participation in schools sports increases both academic success and test scores. Americans continue to allow programs that assist in closing the economic gap between students and schools be removed under the guise of cost. Why are only certain sports offered in affluent school systems? Children attending school in impoverished communities are not afforded the same opportunities as those students in wealthier areas as a result diversity is lacking in sports that are more expensive to participate in.
Racial disproportion is evident in most exclusive sports across the United States. In sports like lacrosse the ethnicity of the team vary rarely reflects the demographics of the state. There have been numerous attempts by non-profit organizations and clubs to diversify lacrosse but they have been unable to break through the invisible barriers. Living in Charlotte, North Carolina it is easy to tell when you are in an affluent neighborhood. The streets are cleaner, the lawns are manicured, and this translates even into the school facilities. Children of the affluent perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion” (Cenziper, Mellnik, 2013). This is the case throughout our country the gap between the rich and the poor continues to increase. Poverty is increasing at mind blowing rates in the United States. The Department of Education sited that one out of every five public schools are classified as “high-poverty”. That translates to 20 percent of American children attending an impoverished school. To be classified as “high-poverty” 75 percent of the attending children receive free or reduced priced lunches. An indication that the families of students at each of these schools cannot afford to pay for their children’s meals this is an increase in the poverty indicator of 60 percent since 2011 (Department of Education).
The great equalizer, education is no longer as effective as it once was. There are many factors contributing to this inconsistency “schools serving low-income students receive fewer resources, face greater difficulties attracting qualified teachers, face many more challenges in addressing student’s needs, and receive less support from parents” (Reardon, 2013).Within these communities you will easily find students with the drive to excel but due to their economic situations they are not armed with adequate resources.
The inequalities facing children start even before they begin primary school. We expect schools to increase achievement for all students, regardless of race, income, class, and prior achievement. Although it is not reasonable to expect schools to completely eliminate the gaps upon children first entering the system, especially if those schools are under-funded and over-crowded.

Students from poor communities are a less likely to perform at grade level in reading and math. The poorest school systems post test scores that repeatedly pull both states down on national education measures including SAT. These test scores are due in part to the lack of exposure to outside influences of cultural diversity. There are many children enrolled in inner city schools that have never seen life beyond their own city limits. This means that many of the examples given on standardized testing are irrelevant to their life-styles essentially making much of the test inconceivable.
“Despite widespread faith in the role of schooling to address or ameliorate social inequalities, we should recognize that our nation’s schools actually play a major role in magnifying such inequalities. For example, it is common knowledge that children’s school performance, including scores on standardized tests of academic achievement, is associated with their family background, particularly race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Several social scientists have written about how schools structure inequality, so that social differences in achievement actually increase as a result of children’s participation in differentiated educational experiences as they move through school” (Reardon, 2013).
These schools face numerous challenges: Administrators and teachers must educate some of the nation’s most underprivileged students, those students whose home and community environments that don’t often have the capability to support them in their aspirations for a quality education. The insufficiencies are highlighted by the incapacity of poor districts to provide the type of funding that is necessary.

According to statistics provided by the Charlotte Observer the amount of funds available per student based on county displays a vast gap between Mecklenburg county schools one of North Carolina’s wealthiest districts to Hoke one of the poorest (Ted Mellnik and Debbie Cenziper 1999).

These schools with less funding per student are less likely to offer extracurricular activities and when they do seldom will they offer sports like lacrosse, tennis, or golf. Participants in these sports are predominantly Caucasian from suburban neighborhoods or attending private schools. The mere cost of participation would deter many students that were attending a school that offered these sports.
In addition to programs not being offered and the exorbitant cost lacrosse is not what is considered by many a mainstream sports. There are no commercials, sports ads, or role models driving children to try the sport particularly minorities in low income communities. Sports like basketball and soccer have developed a broader base because of positive role models like Pele or the LeBron James.
The lack of these sports being offered in “high poverty” schools is often attributed to inner city schools not being able to provide several of the necessities required to play Lacrosse, a field sport that requires open space, large amounts of land, for fields. If you don’t have outdoor space sports opportunities are limited. Most traditional lacrosse programs are club based, requiring fees and the cost of the equipment particularly in the men’s sport can run high, participants needing pads, sticks, gloves, helmets, and cleats.
Many of these points are valid but the same schools that provide this as an argument promote football programs that have most of the same requirements and the two sports are able to be played on the same fields begging the question why is there room and funding for one and not the other.

Works Cited Cenziper, Debbie, Mellnik,Ted (2013) Department of Education

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