Half of the Fairfax County high school teachers responding to a school survey two years ago said they have lower academic expectations for black students than they do for white students.
More than half of the intermediate and high school teachers who were questioned said they believe that minority students are not adequately prepared to take advanced academic courses.
The findings so troubled the county's school administration that it labeled the 1976 study "confidential" and asked school board members not to discuss it publicly.
Black leaders, saying they were shocked by the survey's findings, charged yesterday that the study shows that black stereotypes still exist in the county's predominantly white schools and said the school administration has done little to overcome them.
"They are still clinging to that old myth (that blacks are inferior to whites)," said Audrey Williams, president of the Fairfax County chapter of the NAACP. "It's a self-fulfilling prophecy," she said.
If the county's teachers believe black students are inferior to white students, then they will set lower goals for the black students, she said.
Schoold officials said they were "bothered" by the survey's findings and are trying to change attitudes among teachers by holding "human relations" workshops in the county.
Connie Johnson, coordinator of the county's human office, said school officials have been emphasizing to teachers in the "human relations" workshops that "they must expect rigorous preformance from all students," regardless of race. "That's one thing we feel very strongly about. A child reflects what you think of him."
The human relations assessment survey was given to a Washington Post reporter who recently learned of the study from Frank M. Alston, a former school board member.
According to Alston, who was the only black on the shool board when the survey results were compiled last year, the report provoked "a very hot discussion" in a closed meeting of the board. School Superintendent S. John Davis wanted results of the survey held "confidential" but the board decided the survey should be made public, Alston said. Nevertheless, Davis failed to do so until a suburban newspaper reporter asked for the results.
Although one Arlington newspaper learned of the survey last year, few people outside the Fairfax school system were aware of its findings. Fairfax school officials remain secretive about the survey, refusing to name the schools that were involved.
Davis said he is trying to retain "a bit of annonymity" about the survey because he feels students and teachers will be reluctant "to air their dirty laundry" if there is possibility the school's findings will be made public.
The survey was given to 3,622 students and 1,110 faculty members in 30 elementary, intermediate and high schools. The students questioned represented 20 percent of the total students in the 30 schools.
The survey showed that 46 percent of black elementary students and 31 percent of elementary teachers, believe that minority students are not expected to learn as much or as quickly as others.
Johnson of the human relations office said she believes academic expectations for black students are higher at the elementary leven that at secondary level because elementary teachers have a smaller number of students to teach and therefore have a more intimate relationship with the students.
When asked to agree or disagree with the statement, "My school will let me be the way I am," 53 percent of the black elementary students surveyed said they disagreed. At the intermediate and high school level, the number of blacks who feel the school does not accept them as they are decreased, to 27 percent of the seventh and eighth graders (intermediate level) and 36 percent in high school.
Asked how students of different racial or ethnic backgrounds communicate with each other, 42 percent of the high school students responded "not too well." Forty-eight percent answered "fairly well," and 9 percent said "very well."
Responding to the statement, "Teachers in this school are prejudiced," 46 percent of the high school students agreed. Three out of every 10 elementary students in intermediate grades saw their teachers as prejudiced.
More than half of the students and more than one-third of the faculty believe that discipline in high school is affected by race and sex.
In 1976, blacks represented 4.2 percent of the country's student populations and 13.9 percent of all suspensions. Last year, blacks made up 4.6 percent of the student body and 12.6 percent of the suspensions.
"Despite the good intentions (of the survey), I don't think a full program has been developed to enable the staff to go back and address the deficiencies found in the schools," said B. James Carter, chairman of the county's human relations advisory committee.
Johnson said a survey planned for the fall will allow officials to reassess some of the schools that have been surveyed.
"I feel very positive about (the surveys)," Davis said. "First we're willing to take a look at them . . . It's fascinating to see the different perceptions.You have to be aware that the perception is there. Then attempt to change it."