Feds to Monitor Oakland Schools’ Discipline of Black Students

The Department of Education is stepping in amid soaring rates of Black student suspensions.

Posted: 10/03/2012 01:44 PM EDT

The U.S. Department of Education will send federal monitors to observe Oakland public schools’ efforts to curb high levels of Black student suspensions.

The measure, agreed upon by the Oakland Unified School District late last week, closes an investigation by the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights into whether the district gave Black students harsher punishments than their white counterparts.  

According to figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times, African-Americans accounted for 63 percent of students in the district with at least one suspension and 61 percent of those who were expelled, but make-up just 39 percent of the district's total enrollment.

Unfortunately, the disparity in discipline is not just an Oakland problem.

Last year, the DOE launched a similar investigation into Maryland’s Anne Arundel County school district after the NAACP filed a formal complaint with the agency. The NAACP alleged that the school system subjected African-American students to more discipline referrals, suspensions and expulsions.

The DOE’s Maryland probe and the subsequent reforms resulted in a nearly 40 percent drop in suspensions among African-American students and now Oakland is considering similar measures.

Russlynn Ali, the DOE's assistant secretary for civil rights, told the paper that the agency is working with the district to "change the culture in schools and classrooms that too often gives rise to extraordinary rates of discipline.”

The five-year plan will focus on revising discipline policies and implementing viable alternatives to suspensions such as restroative justice models.

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(Photo: Rogers Family Foundation)

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