The racial disparities in America’s public education system are now widely known. There are disparities in the way African-Americans are punished compared to white students. There are disparities in funding for predominantly minority schools and white schools. There are even disparities in how many advanced classes are taught at minority schools.
Education experts, politicians, and community leaders have for decades now attempted to ferret out solutions to the educational disparities in America, and every one of them have failed to close the gap. Now, the NAACP is literally taking the law into its own hands.
Last week, the world’s most famous civil rights organization filed a complaint with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Education. The complaint alleges that the Anne Arundel County public schools in Maryland have knowingly been suspending African-American students while giving less harsh punishments to white students. The NAACP made a similar complaint against Anne Arundel in 2004, which led to an agreement between the schools and the NAACP. The new complaint claims that agreement has since been ignored by Anne Arundel: “Six years later,” it reads, “there has been no marked improvement in the disparate treatment of African-American students in disciplinary actions, which continues a pattern of denial and limitation of their educational opportunities and thus their future sustainability.”
Speaking for the school, an official named Bob Mosier told the Baltimore Sun, “Our progress at closing the gaps has been slower than we would have liked and slower than the community would have liked. But this is a societal issue, and we are devoting considerable energy to it.”
Of course, that’s what school officials said five years ago, too. At a certain point, talk is cheap and we need to see results. That the NAACP has chosen to involve the Department of Education mean that the leaders there know they need to demand quantitative impacts, but there’s only so much that government can do. Is pressure from Washington going to change the structural racism that finds Black kids being treated more harshly by school authorities, or is that going to take in-depth training sessions to promote awareness amongst the staff? I’d guess the latter, and I’d guess that it would be expensive. Still, that the NAACP is keeping this issue in the public consciousness, whatever the end result, is important.