High school student’s science project linking race, low intelligence spurs investigation
A Northern California school district is investigating how a science project correlating low intelligence with racial groups was on full display at a science fair, where it drew outrage from some students, parents and staff.
The project by a Sacramento high school student enrolled in an elite magnet program titled “Race and IQ,” questioned whether certain races lack the intelligence for the program’s academically challenging coursework.
The Sacramento Bee, which published the story Saturday, did not speak to the student at C.K. McClatchy High School and is not identifying the minor. The project was on view with others Monday as part of an annual science fair but was removed Wednesday after complaints.
Sacramento City Unified School District Supt. Jorge Aguilar on Saturday released a video statement noting his own struggles as a minority and saying racially insensitive language will not be tolerated.
“Yes, we’ll respect freedom of speech. But we will also uphold our duty to limit speech that is likely to cause disruption to our students,” he said. “No student should ever be made to feel that their race has anything to do with their ability to succeed.”
On Thursday, school Principal Peter Lambert sent an email to parents saying that the school is taking the incident seriously and implementing appropriate measures to provide an inclusive environment.
Some people outraged by the racially charged project say it points to the larger problem: the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in the school’s elite Humanities and International Studies program.
The program, which was designed to promote cultural awareness and sensitivity, enrolls about 500 students. They include a dozen African American students, 80 Latino students and about 100 Asian American students, according to data provided by the district.
“I think that a lot of people, especially of color, are really hurt and upset by this,” said Chrysanthe Vidal, an African American senior who is in the program.
The student tested his race and intelligence hypothesis by having a handful of unidentified teens of various racial and ethnic backgrounds take an online intelligence test.
His report concluded that the lower average IQs “of blacks, Southeast Asians, and non-white Hispanics” means they were not as likely as “non-Hispanic whites and Northeast Asians” to get into the academically rigorous program. He said the test results justified the racial imbalance in the program.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.