Disproportionate Discipline in Seattle Schools and the DOJ Investigation

21 Jan

As some of you may know, Seattle Public Schools has been under an ACTIVE INVESTIGATION by the Department of Justice for disproportionate discipline rates for students of color.

As part of the workshop today on the School to Prison Pipeline, a friend of ours wrote an amazing summary of the facts that prompted the investigation, the current status, and some specific steps that you can take to help:

Disproportionality in School Discipline in Seattle Public Schools

The Problem:

The racial disproportionality in school discipline, and in particular suspension, is at an all time high. In Seattle Public Schools:

    • African-American high school students are suspended or expelled more than three times as often as other students
    • In middle school, the racial disparity is greater, with blacks 3 1/2 times more likely to be disciplined than other students, according to district data shared with Reuters.
    • More than a quarter of all black middle school pupils have received short-term suspensions in any given year since at least the 2006-07 academic year, compared with 7.4 percent or less annually for white students, the data shows.
    • African-Americans represent just over 20 percent of the 12,500 high school students in the Seattle district and 18 percent of 8,000 middle school students there, and yet they account for more than 40 percent of all suspensions and expulsions in those schools.
    • The racial disparity in student discipline “is a problem,” Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Jose Banda, who was appointed last May to oversee the district, told Reuters. “It is a concern for us.”

The Solution:

Force Seattle Public Schools to develop a plan to IMMEDIATELY deal with disproportionality in school discipline by:

1) Call or email the Seattle Public Schools Superintendent’s office. Email: superintendent@seattleschools.org   Phone: 206-252-0180
2) Call or email the SPS School Board. Email: schoolboard@seattleschools.org     Phone: 206-252-0040

Press the Department of Justice to stay involved in the process of forcing SPS to deal with the issue by:
3) Call, email or write a letter to the local Seattle DOJ and/or the main DOJ office in Washington D.C.

The Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights
The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education (DOE) explained in a guidance document (published on January 8, 2014) that the Department is committed to:

Promoting effective and appropriate school discipline policies and practices that create a safe and inclusive environmentwhere all students can learn and succeed.

As part of this commitment:
1) The DOJ/DOE will enforce Federal laws to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination in school discipline.
2) In addition to investigating complaints that have been filed, both Departments are collaboratively and proactively initiating compliance reviews nationwide focused on student discipline.
3) Finally, the Departments will continue to provide technical assistance to schools on the adoption and administration of discipline policies consistent with their obligations under Federal civil rights laws.

The guidance document published by the DOJ:
1) Outlines the law and what schools are EXPECTED to be doing regarding discipline and disproportionality and the manner that the DOJ will address concerns in reported schools.
2) The document does not describe any particular enforcement mechanism to address school districts already under investigation.

How do we move the DOJ to force Seattle Public Schools to deal with the issue of disproportionality in SPS?
1) We call and email the local Seattle DOJ and the main DOJ office in Washington DC.
2) Sign a copy of the template letter that we have prepared. These letters will be photocopied and sent to the local SeattleDOJ and the main DOJ office in Washington D.C.

To Contact the DOJ’s Office of Civil Rights:
To find your local DOJ office, go to: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html
Or call the Office of Civil Rights (OCR’s) Customer Service Team at 1-800-421-3481.

To File a Suggestion or Complaint:
You may also contact the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section at education@usdoj.gov or 1-877- 292-3804.

Here is a letter that you can cut/paste/print out and send in:

To the DOJ/OCR in Washington D.C. & the local office in Seattle, WA:
I, ______________________________, am writing to request that you continue your investigation of Seattle Public Schools regarding disproportionality in school discipline. I believe that in order for this issue to no be both addressed and resolved the DOJ/OCR need put an enforcement mechanism in place that requires Seattle Public Schools to:

Immediately develop a comprehensive plan to urgently address these issues in Seattle Public Schools. This plan must be developed before the end of the current academic year (2013-2014) and should be in effect by the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year.

Disproportionality in school discipline and academic success is a major problem in Seattle Public Schools. Seattle is a highly segregated city. Both the City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools have been aware of this issue for years. Children of color are being marginalized and disenfranchised in SPS. The School District is inequitable in its
treatment of black and brown children and it is unacceptable! I ask the DOJ/DOE to force Seattle Public Schools to make the needed changes immediately with expediency and urgency! I also ask that DOJ make any settlement agreement established with SPS public so that the community, parents and students can hold SPS accountable.

Sincerely,

(Signature)

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