A school district in Southern California approved the “affirmation and recognition” of Ebonics into its curriculum as a way to help black students improve academic performance.

The San Bernardino Board of Education says a pilot of the policy, known as the Students Accumulating New Knowledge Optimizing Future Accomplishment Initiative, has been implemented at two city schools, according to the daily San Bernardino Sun.

Ebonics, a dialect of American English spoken by many blacks, was recognized as a separate language by the Oakland, Calif., school board in 1996.

Mary Texeira, a sociology professor at Cal State San Bernardino, believes the program will be beneficial to students.

“Ebonics is a different language, it’s not slang as many believe,’ Texeira told the Sun. “For many of these students Ebonics is their language, and it should be considered a foreign language. These students should be taught like other students who speak a foreign language.”

Texeira acknowledged there are African Americans who disagree with her.

“They say that [black students] are lazy and that they need to learn to talk,” she said.

The program, which will be implemented gradually, begins this fall when teachers receive training on black culture and customs. The district curriculum will include information on the historical, cultural and social impact of blacks in society.

Len Cooper, coordinator of the pilot program at the two city schools, said Ebonics won’t actually be incorporated into the program, because of its “stigma.”

“We are affirming and recognizing Ebonics through supplemental reading books for students,” he explained.

Although the program is aimed at black students, other students can choose to participate, the Sun reported.

Board member Danny Tillman told the paper he pushed for the policy because he hoped it would increase the number of black students going to college and participating in advanced courses.

But Teresa Parra, board vice president, worries other minority groups, including Hispanics, will want their own programs.

“I’ve always thought that we should provide students support based on their needs and not on their race,” she said.

Ratibu Jacocks, a member of a coalition of black activists – the Westside Action Group – said they are working with the district to ensure the policy is implemented appropriately.

“This isn’t a feel-good policy. This is the real thing,” said Jacocks.

He welcomes the idea of other ethnic groups lobbying for their own program.

“When you are doing what’s right, others will follow,’ Jacocks said. “We have led the way before the civil-rights movement opened the door for women’s rights and other movements.”

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