Earlier this week, the US Department of Education reached a settlement agreement with Oklahoma City Public Schools in order to address what has been found to be the disproportionate discipline of black students. Indeed, an investigation has demonstrated that black students in this area have been subject to more disciplinary action than other students.
Prior to the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Right’s (OCR) completion of the probe, the district explicitly expressed a desire to resolve the matter voluntarily, which is what resulted in the agreement. This measure will not aim to rectify the discipline practices in Oklahoma City in order to ensure that each student receives fair and just treatment, that the district maintains civil rights obligations to all students henceforth.
The DoE OCR found, in fact, that in the 2014-2015 school year, black students accounted for 42 percent of in-school suspensions even though they only represented about 26 percent of the whole student population. Further back, the agency found that in the 2011-2012 school year, black students also received not only in-school suspensions, but also out-of-school suspensions, law enforcement intervention, and arrest-worthy violations in proportions significantly higher than their district enrollment.
“I applaud the district for its commitment to improving its discipline policies, procedures and practices for the students it serves every school day, including through evaluation of its reliance on and training for school resource officers,” comments Catherine E. Lhamon, who is the assistant secretary for the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. “I appreciate the positive steps the district took during the course of our investigation and I look forward to working with the district to implement this agreement.”
While this is certainly a major achievement for students everywhere, the ruling only addresses one of three OCR investigations of the school district. The two other complaints involve allegations that the district has failed to provide both male and female students with equal opportunities and access in athletics and that the district has discriminated against students with disabilities in regards to provisions for access to free and appropriate public education.