The Oakland school district’s approach to student discipline has become the subject of a federal investigation. But that inquiry might come to a halt if the school board agrees to take action first, voluntarily — which it might do on Wednesday.
Given the disproportionate number of out-of-school suspensions handed to Oakland’s African-American students, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights began looking in May to see whether those practices are racially discriminatory. (Since Oakland is hardly unique in these patterns, I called the Department of Education this morning to see how many other school districts are under investigation. I have yet to receive an answer.)
At Wednesday night’s regular meeting, the Oakland school board will be asked to approve a so-called “voluntary resolution” — a 20-page document that includes remedies ranging from parent education and staff training to schoolwide strategies such as restorative justice programs. It has identified 38 schools — roughly 45 percent — with the most disproportionate suspension and explusion rates of African American students, but the plan would be taken districtwide.
The resolution would also aim to reduce suspensions of the district’s special education students; nearly one in five were suspended at least once during the school year, twice the district’s overall rate, according to a study from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project in April.
I’d like to know what you think of the various aspects of this plan, and how you think it will — or could — help schools and students. Have you seen a school become safer and more harmonious while simultaneously reducing its out-of-school suspensions?