Feds to Investigate Discrimination in Maryland Schools

The NAACP filed a complaint last year alleging the Anne Arundel district unfairly punishes a large number of Black students.

Posted: 04/11/2012 06:39 PM EDT

The U.S. Department of Education’s office of civil rights has announced it will investigate allegations that the Anne Arundel County, Maryland, school system discriminates against African-American students when enforcing discipline.

The investigation stems from a formal complaint the local NAACP filed last year accusing the school system of subjecting African-American students to more discipline referrals, suspensions and expulsions. Both the schools and the local NAACP received letters Tuesday from the office of civil rights notifying them of the investigation.

“It is our hope that there will be no discrimination or disparities against any kids in Anne Arundel County public school system,” Jacqueline Boone Allsup, president of the Anne Arundel NAACP, told BET.com.

In 2004, the NAACP and a host of community organizations brought a similar complaint to the Department of Education which resulted in a 2005 memorandum mediated by the government. African-American students make up 22 percent of the county's students, yet they accounted for about 40 percent of discipline referrals and suspensions in the 2004-2005 school year. Eight years later, the number of disciplinary actions is almost identical to previous years.

Allsup says more needs to be done to address the problem, and she is glad the Department of Justice is stepping in.

“We addressed the issue in 2004 in an original agreement, and since that agreement, there has been very little movement. If you look at the data from 2004 and the current data, there has been very little improvement when you look at disciplinary referrals and suspensions and expulsions as they occur with African-American kids,” she says.

In the NAACP complaint filed last year, the organization requested data to identify the teachers or administrators who make the most discipline referrals of Black students for the so-called offenses.

The Department of Justice will look into that, among other issues, and the NAACP has asked the schools to increase cultural proficiency training, create a third-party evaluation of discipline and better address evaluations and promotions of Black teachers.

“I don’t have the answer for the school system,” Allsup says. “I am hoping after the investigation, however, we will learn why these things are happening, and hopefully there will be some recommendations so this will not continue to occur.” 

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(Photo: Linda Davidson/The Washington Post/Getty Images)