Oakland Public School District Accused of Harsher Discipline of Black Students Over Whites
A federal investigation into whether the Oakland school district disciplines its African-American students more harshly than its white students might prompt the Oakland school board to tackle the issue voluntarily.
On Wednesday, the school board considers whether to approve a formal resolution with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. The five-year plan posted on the school district's website focuses initially on 38 of the district's 86 schools. Its goals include an overall reduction in out-of-school suspensions, as well as the suspensions of African-American and special education students, who are far more likely to be sent home from school than their peers. If the resolution is approved, the feds will halt their investigation before they conclude whether the district has, indeed, engaged in discriminatory student discipline practices.
District officials are not commenting on the investigation but it has been highlighted in the 20 page resolution that the work the school district has already begun to improve the outcomes of its African-American students and to address behavioral problems and conflicts in other ways, such as restorative justice.
" ... it is critical that students learn and are reinforced in appropriate behavior so that they are engaged in the District's education program, rather than its disciplinary system," the resolution reads.
In the investigation findings, there was "0ne in every five of the district's African-American schoolchildren was suspended at least once during the 2009-10 school year alone, according to an analysis released in April by UCLA's Civil Rights Project, based on data from the Department of Education."
Consequently, the findings showed the percentage was much lower for Oakland children of different races:
- 8 percent of Latino children
- 3 percent of Asian children
- 3 percent of white children
These students received at least one out-of-school suspension during that school year and Districtwide, it was nearly 11 percent.
These disparities were found to be widespread. The UCLA study found that statewide, African-American students were three times as likely as white students to be suspended at least once, and that students with disabilities were twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension as their non-disabled peers.
The study asserts the school district needs "more resources to improve discipline in their schools, more administrators would prioritize counselors, staff training, conflict-resolution programs, support services and rehabilitation services, than those who would opt for more security staff and measures." -Reported by EdSource.The survey, released Monday, found that two-thirds of high school students, and 42 percent of middle school students, who are suspended are forced to stay out of school three or more days. A minority, or 22 percent, of administrators responding who had expelled students said they wish state law offered them an alternative.
This isn't the first time Oakland school district has faced 'voluntary resolution' with the Office of Civil Rights. Its been nearly 20 years ago but a civil rights advocate, Oscar Wright's complaint led to a resolution but he said it was never enforced. He is hoping another resolution will lead to real changes but is very skeptical. Wright says for decades, he's argued that the district has provided its students an unequal education.
Wright stated recently:
"I'm so sick of these plans. Get a principal that knows how to run a school and make a school conducive to children's learning, and they won't have these discipline problems."Source
UPDATE on Oct. 3, 2012:
The Oakland school board on Thursday night unanimously approved an agreement with the Office for Civil Rights to reduce the number of out-of-school suspensions of its African-American students.
The five-year plan, which builds on ongoing programs such as restorative justice, focuses initially on 38 of the district's 86 schools. Its goals include an overall reduction in out-of-school suspensions, as well as the suspensions of African-American and special education students, who are far more likely to be sent home from school than their peers. Read more HERE