Celebrated psychologist Dr. Umar Johnson spoke at the Palladium Theatre Aug. 13.
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – One of the most sought after African-American public speakers stood on stage at the Palladium Theatre Aug. 13 and broke down the educational system in American and the reasons why our black children are failing.
Sponsored by Brother Darius Muhammad and Demetris X of 1Nation Promotions, Dr. Umar Johnson is a certified school psychologist that specializes in working with at-risk, violent, suicidal and depressed African-American children. He is considered a national expert on learning disabilities and their effects on black children, and how to help parents and educators modify challenging behaviors.
Johnson is a school psychologist and a doctor of clinical phycology. In his daily work in the state of Pennsylvania, he evaluates children and decides who goes into special education, what children are learning disabled, who’s autistic, who is intellectually disabled and who’s mentally gifted.
He also determines what children need “special education for so-called ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.”
“In order to understand special education, you have to understand the Brown v. Board of Education,” he said.
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court said no longer could race be a factor in educational decision-making. Ten years later in 1964 most school districts in America were still largely segregated by race. In 1974, 20 years after the landmark decision and 10 years after the Civil Rights Act, many district had yet to integrate.
“So the busing movement began,” said Johnson.
In many cities across America they bused black kids into white schools, such as Boston, he said, where “white people stood up and fought against forced bussing of black children to white schools. They turned over busses; they bombed them, they beat up black children.”
Johnson explained that these acts made America look bad internationally.
“They didn’t care about black children, but they didn’t like the image of the so-called leader of the free world looking like a hypocrite,” he stated.
Johnson revealed that a psychologist out of Chicago purposed a plan to let white school districts re-segregate the black children away from the whites.
“Only this time don’t say you’re doing it because they are black, say you are doing it because he’s retarded,” Johnson said. “Take the black girl and put her in a segregated class not because she’s black but say she has a reading disability.”
So in 1975 when special education was created, it gave school district the right to re-segregate the black child away from the white child with the excuse of the inability to learn, he said.
School to prison pipeline
In a surprise twist, Johnson said that parents willingly participate in the school to prison pipeline operation. Parents participate by letting the school district evaluate their children.
“Don’t tell me St. Petersburg schools put your child in special education. Stop telling what they did and start telling me what you did,” he exclaimed. “I, they…you cannot test them, you cannot place them, you cannot special educated them unless a parent signs their name. You get the whole show started.”
He revealed that there are two million African Americans in jail and there are two million black children in special education.
“Half the black children in St. Pete and in Tampa in special education don’t need to be there,” he said.
Johnson called special education a trash can where they throw black children the schools doesn’t want to be bothered with until they are old enough to go to jail, dropout or get killed.
“Special education is a human trash can.”
In another twist, Johnson said most of the diagnoses they give cannot be proven that they even exist.
“The reading disability is a professional opinion, that’s it. The math disability is a professional opinion, that’s it. ADHD is nothing more than a white psychologist’s opinion about your black child,” he averred.
“There’s no blood test for a learning disability; there’s no CAT scan for ADHD. There’s no MRI for an emotional disturbance, there’s no urine sample for mental retardation,” he explained. “There’s no x-ray that you can give to prove 100 percent that your child has this disability.
Johnson said parents take home these labels to children and kills their motivation. The worst side effect of special education, he feels, is that it becomes self-fulfilling prophecies.
“In fact, most of our children do not have a specific learning disability, they have what I refer to as a Sloppy and Lazy as Hell Negro Child Disease,” he said, as the crowd broke out in laughter.
Johnson said it’s not that your child cannot learn, but that they can care less because most of them think they are going to the NFL or the NBA.
Thirty billion dollars a year Wall Street makes off parents putting their kids on ADHD medicine, Johnson said.
Attention Deficit Disorder was added to the diagnostic manual in 1980, and Johnson said that was no coincidence.
“What was going on in America in 1980,” he asked. “The CIA started dropping off crack in the ghettos. They started mass incarceration of black men for selling the government’s dope. So the men were going to jail and since the man is usually the disciplinarian, black boys at home had more freedom.”
In 1987 they added an “H” to Attention Deficit Disorder, making it Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder because there is no drug that can make your child pay attention, he said.
“They were losing money because there wasn’t enough prescription being written, so seven years later the drug companies force the psychiatric association to put on an “H” to justify the medication of your children.”
A few of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD includes failure to pay attention, taps with hands or feet and is unable to play quietly.
“What child do you know, black or white rich or poor, plays quietly,” asked Johnson, who said that is normal behavior for a black boy.
Since schools are operated mostly by women, Johnson stated, “being a normal black boy does not fit within the culture of a female dominated institution. When your sons go to school he’s expected to act like a girl and when he can’t he’s considered to be diseased.”
He recommends to school districts all over the United States that seek his help to hire more strong black male teachers.
But Johnson has little doubt more black male teachers will be recruited. He feels that in order to keep the society functioning the way it is, the educational system must remain broken.
“They are sending black boys to jail instead of college because black folks are no longer necessary in order for the American economic order to function. You were brought to America to serve. You have served your purpose,” he stated.
For Johnson, ADHD stands for Ain’t No Daddy At Home Disorder. He said 85 percent of black boys diagnosed with ADHD do not have a father in their lives.
“This has nothing to do with drugs or psychiatry. This is about destabilizing the black family by removing the father and leaving the mother to do a man’s job.”
Being a school psychologist, Johnson has seen the devastating effects of drugs prescribed to children diagnosed with ADHD. Drugs such as Ritalin are classified as a Schedule B drug, which means it is as dangerous and addictive as cocaine and opium.
“This is what you give your child. Do you realize these drugs kill brain cells? Do you realize these drugs cause heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, epilepsy, psychosis, suicidal tendencies, homicidal behavior?”
Johnson has seen children talking themselves and even urinating and defecating on themselves while on these drugs.
“A high school boy urinated on himself because his brain did not know that his bladder was full because the drugs messed up the neurological communication system that lets the brain tell the bladder that it is full,” he said.
Johnson advised parents to stop letting the school tell them their child need these drugs.
“A teacher can’t tell you your child needs drugs…she ain’t no damn doctor.”
“It’s nothing more trifling than a black parent who puts a black child in special education when you know the problem is laziness,” Johnson proclaimed. “But, but, but…apples don’t fall far from the trees from which they sprout.”
Johnson often says when speaking about academic failure to not show him a child that’s failing school, but show him the parent that is failing the child. He said children do not drop out of school until their parents dropout of their lives.
He wants parents all over the United States to know that they have certain rights that should never be vacated.
“You have the right to say no,” he said, when the school comes calling to evaluate your child.
It’s more than one reason a child could be below grade level, such as suspensions, inept teachers and even the lack of teachers. Oftentimes students have to deal with substitutes teachers for long periods of time.
“You parents have to be very firm in protecting your children,” Johnson explained. “The first thing a school does is do an evaluation of black parents to determine which ones you can get over on and which ones you cannot. If you are an easy black parent, your children will suffer.”
Johnson said every school has what he calls a black list, which is a short list of black parents you cannot get over on because they will come to the school and raise hell.
“If you are not on that black list you are not with your children,” he said “because having a lazy black parent is like having no damn parent at all.”
“We can talk about white supremacy, but what about trifling black people? We can talk about racism all day, but what about you not being on your child?”
He asked the crowd if they check their children’s homework every night, or if they do drive-bys afterschool. Many in the audience had no idea what an afterschool drive-by was so he explained: “That’s when you pop the hell up and see if they’re doing what they are supposed to be doing!”
Johnson wanted to know if he walked into many of their homes, would there be a bookshelf, a dictionary or a thesaurus.
“I know you got the HDTV, the Xbox, the laptop, a cell phone,” he said. “But do you have any books in your house? In fact, is there even a table and chairs anywhere in that damn home where that child can sit down for 10 minutes and get their work done without any interruptions from the radio, television or your telephone conversation?”
Johnson said he could walk into any parent’s home and tell them if they are a part of the school to prison pipeline.
He admonished parents for letting their children spend hours upon hours on social media, and told them to stop buying Christmas gifts that distract their children from focusing.
“Some of you are letting your children invest too much time in things that will see to it that they spend their lives in poverty or in prison.”
According to Johnson, the number one responsibility of a black parent is to teach their child discipline, which is “the ability to do what your child don’t feel like doing when it got to be done whether they like it or not.”
If a child cannot put their phone down and do their assignments, or if they cannot self-regulate their behavior and delay gratification, then the parent has failed.
“If you haven’t taught your child that you have to learn how to do what you don’t want to do in order to be in a position to do the things you like to do, then you’re raising a felon-ass child,” Johnson said.
The black boy problem in public schools
In different pedagogical circles it has been purported that black males learn differently from other students. Many feel that their attention span, aggression and energy levels are different from their peers. However, Johnson does not subscribe to that point of view.
“The problem is not the boy,” he said. “The problem is how black boys are treated. Don’t work on the black boy; work on the teacher teaching the black boy.”
Johnson said that since 93 percent of the teachers are white females in a racially privileged society, and “you can never hold the white females responsible for the miseducation of the black child because American is based on the principal of black domination in the service of white success.”
The public education problem, Johnson said, is an easy fix, but he feels public education was never design to properly education black children in the first place.
“If you properly educate a black boy, you put white power at risk. If you properly educate a black boy, you offset the American social order. If you properly educate a black boy, you put them in the position to rival the white boy for political domination of American society.”
Johnson posits that public school will continue to fail in order for white privilege to stay in place, stating that black boys must prefer basketball to science, football to mathematics, and black girl must prefer twerkin’ to arithmetic.
“The purpose of public school is to teach the children of the oppressed their place in society. The reason why black boys are taught by white women is because it’s her job to break their spirit, to snatch his masculinity,” he said.
“Special education is a hustle, a racket, a business.”
Johnson explained that every time a child is put in special education, the school gets paid. Once a child is qualified as learning disabled, autistic, having a speech impediment, deaf or blind, traumatic brain injury, ADHD or orthopedically impairment, their names goes into the state department of education’s computer and at the end of the month an electronic transfer of funds is sent to the school district.
“It’s called a welfare check for mis-educating [sic] black children. And if you want to know why they won’t take black kids out of special education, it’s because it’s not financially in their best interest.”
Just as an example, Johnson used numbers from another school district to show how special education is actually a moneymaking business.
A child in special education is worth $7,000 more a year than a child that is not in special education. If that child is put into special education in the second grade, the district has 10 more years of collecting that $7,000. Seven thousand dollars times 10 years equals $70,000 for one kid.
How much money is the Pinellas County School District making off of black kids in the name of special education, he asked.
How to get out of special education
Johnson said parents need to know that they can take their children out of special education whenever they feel like it.
“You have to call an IEP meeting,” he stated. “If you don’t agree that the special education class is benefiting your children, you tell them you want to change your child’s placement.”
The school district can challenge you and take it to the state. The state will then decide if your child should be moved out of special education. According to Johnson, 95 percent of the time they will exit the child.
He wants parents to understand that if they don’t agree with the evaluation on their child, they have a right to an independent educational evaluation.
“Federal law gives you the right to disagree with the conclusion of the evaluation. Parents have a right to request their own Florida state certified school psychologist to evaluate their child, and the school district must pay the bill.
Also, if you child was in special education for a couple of years and has not learned anything, you can make the district pay for your child to go to a private school.
“Federal law says that if a parent can prove that the school district cannot meet the needs of this special education child, the school district must pay for that child to go to a private school,” he said.
For example, if your child was diagnosed mentally challenged in the second grade and you found in the eighth grade that it was a misdiagnosis, the school district now owes you compensatory education for the six years your child was in special education.
So they have to add up180 school days for the six years that your child sat in a special education class, and that money goes into an account for tutoring, special programs and therapy.
Johnson explained that it works in the other direction also. For example, if a parent was told that their child didn’t qualify for speech and language help and the parent finds out they did have a speech and language impairment, the district will owe the parent for all the years their child should have been in special education and was denied service.
There is now a two-year statute of limitations on educational claims, Johnson said, “Since black people have been waking up all across the country and fighting for their child’s rights.”
If your child is in special education and it’s time to graduate and they are not ready, you can make the district continue to educate them.
“Under law, he said, “a child with disabilities can be educated until age 21 or when they are ready to graduate.”
A tutor will come out to the child’s home or meet them at the library every day until he or she is academically competent.
Johnson has been working tirelessly to open the Frederick Douglass & Marcus Garvey International Leadership Academy for Black Boys. It will be America’s first private K-12 residential academy for African-American males based upon the principles of traditional African culture, Pan-African leadership, community self-determination and cooperative entrepreneurship.
“It will be a game changer,” Johnson said, revealing that he’s even open to St. Petersburg as the location.
For more information on Dr. Umar Johnson, log on to drumarjohnson.com