The Wicomico County School Board in Maryland said it will train staff and revise its conduct code to resolve allegations from the U.S. Department of Justice that it discriminates against minority and disabled students, the Baltimore Sun reports.
African-American parents had complained that the school district disproportionately suspended their children and sent them to alternative schools.
Mary Ashanti, president of the local NAACP chapter, told The Sun that law enforcement officers were sometimes involved in school discipline.
“Years ago, when I was in school, it would have been handled by the teacher or the principal,” said Ashanti, who said she began advising parents three years ago to file complaints with the DOJ.
Disabled students advocacy groups, such as Disability Rights Maryland, also filed complaints with federal officials alleging that the school district disproportionately punishes disabled students for misbehavior related to their disability.
Superintendent Donna Hanlin emphasized to the newspaper that the DOJ’s investigation is based on allegations, and the school district did not admit any guilt in the agreement.
“Since I have been here, and in any review that I’ve done, I have not seen evidence of any discrimination,” she stated.
Nevertheless, the school district entered the agreement to avoid litigation and the loss of federal funding.
Under the agreement, the district hired a school discrimination consultant, and each school must hire or designate staff to address the problem in their individual school.
School officials are also submitting a revised conduct code to the DOJ for review. They must also report twice a year to the department on whether it’s achieving the required reforms.
SOURCE: Baltimore Sun