A U.S. Department of Education probe recently revealed that the Oklahoma City Public School system disproportionately punishes Black students. Now, the school district reached an agreement with the federal agency to reform how it disciplines students, the department announced.
The district voluntarily sought a resolution before federal investigators concluded their probe, according to the Education Department’s statement.
Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for the department’s Office for Civil Rights, praised the district for agreeing to the recommended reforms.
“I appreciate the positive steps the district took during the course of our investigation,” said Lhamon, “And I look forward to working with the district to implement this agreement.”
In part, the agreement requires the district to utilize experts to recommend research-based discipline methods to prevent discrimination. The district must also review its resource officer program, and school officials are required to train teachers and administrators on alternative ways to address misconduct.
The federal investigation found that Black students last year accounted for 42 percent of in-school suspensions, even though they comprised just 26 percent of students.
In the 2011 – 2012 school year, they were disproportionately given in-school and out-of-school suspensions, referrals to law enforcement, and arrested.
The school district launched an internal audit during the civil rights probe. Both investigations uncovered numerous inconsistencies in how the district administered its discipline policies. Federal officials said the school district has already initiated reform actions.
This civil rights investigation is finished, but two other complaints involving the district remain unresolved. The Education Department continues to probe alleged gender discrimination in athletic activities and discrimination against disabled students.
SOURCE: Dept of Education | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty