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I am a family counselor with Child and Family Services. Recently, one of my clients -- a 15-year-old Kensington High School student -- told me that she does not have any books for any of her classes. Instead, work is completed with handouts and ditto sheets.

When I questioned the school about the validity of this claim, a staff member admitted that in most classes, teens do not have a book from which they can follow lessons, read assignments or do homework exercises.

The reasons given for this deprivation ranged from a lack of resources to students continually destroying books. When speaking with the principal about this situation, I was told that several letters had been written to the Board of Education requesting assistance, and that books are currently on order.

After my initial disbelief subsided, my concern deepened to an outrage reminiscent of that found in Jonathan Kozol's 1991 book, "Savage Inequalities." Anyone who has not read this book would do well to educate themselves about the tragic state of many of our inner-city schools around the country.

Kozol cites numerous examples of schools in cities like St. Louis, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., where many low-income students attend classes in dilapidated buildings. If these students do have books, most are aged, worn and discarded from surrounding suburban school districts.

When I was in high school, I carried books home daily. Assignments included hours of reading outside of the classroom in order to expand my knowledge and understanding of what was taught earlier in the day.

What kind of an education are students at Kensington High School receiving? Aren't they entitled to the same basic education as all students, regardless of their income level and the neighborhoods in which they live?

If these conditions existed at City Honors or Hutchinson-Central Technical High School, how would parents react?

It is my understanding that within the next few years, all high school students will be required to pass Regents-level courses in New York State. Do Kensington High School students have an equitable chance to meet that requirement?


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