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Focus on fathers, sons at Wyandanch high school conference | Newsday

Focus on fathers, sons at Wyandanch high school conference
Focus on fathers, sons at Wyandanch high school conference

The event was formed after a high school principal found that the absence of father figures in the lives of
some black male students was hurting their academic performance.

LONG ISLAND

Focus on fathers, sons at Wyandanch high school conference

The event was formed after a high school principal found that the absence of father figures in the lives of
some black male students was hurting their academic performance.

By Kristopher J. Brooks

khristopher.brooks@newsday.com @americanglow

Updated January 26, 2019 10:26 PM

Wyandanch Memorial High School Principal Paul Sibblies said he's noticed dwindling motivation among some of his black male students in recent  semesters. So he took action.

After talking to those students, Sibblies, who is black, said he found that the core problem is the absence of a father figure in those students' lives. It's a problem that Sibblies said he can only do so much to address during classroom hours at the school, which has a large minority-student population.

"It's affecting their success and their concentration in school and affecting their grades," he said.

So, over the past two months, Sibblies and members of his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, developed a fatherand-son conference, which took place Saturday at the school.

Organizers also held workshops on mental illness, child support and visitation rights, financial literacy, having a gay father or son, gang life, the talk that happens in black barber shops, and what to do when stopped by the police.

Jonathan Bing, a 16-year Suffolk County deputy, led the police-stop workshop. He said he understands that nationally many Americans are at odds with the way police officers are doing their jobs, but "I didn't take this job to hurt anybody."

Bing said the most effective way for black youth to conduct themselves during a police encounter is to be nice, be respectful and be honest.

Sibblies said the conference's goal was to show young black men that someone cares about their future, even if that may not be their father. He said he also wanted sons and fathers to realize that the choices each other makes impacts the other person's life.

The conference opened with a breakfast keynote from Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. The sheriff, who is black, told a group of black high school students that he grew up in the South Bronx and experienced how making one bad choice can ruin a young man's life.

All it takes is getting into a car with two people you don't know, then getting stopped by police and the unknown passengers being caught with drugs or guns, Toulon said.

"You have to be conscious of the people you're around and careful who you associate with," he said. "I'm talking to you now because I don't want to see you a year from now in my jail. And don't say, 'That can't happen to me,' because I've met plenty of men who that has happened to."