S. E. Williams |
At some point in American history its educational system bought into a process of student discipline not to dissimilar to the country’s egregious approach to criminal justice overall. As a result, it naturally followed that Black children would bear the brunt of this destructive racist folly the same as Black adults.
The disparities related to student discipline are well documented. For example in 2015-16, when students lost 11 million days of instruction from suspensions, Black students lost nearly five times the number of days as white students.
Just like the nation continues its struggle to fully address the inadequacies and failures of a prison industrial complex, so too do school districts continue to fail in its equitable application of discipline and as a result, far too many Black students continue to bend and/or be broken under disparities in the application of school discipline including out of school suspensions, expulsions, etc.
One of the most egregious examples of this came to light in San Bernardino County recently when an August 16 report released by the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) provided the details of its compliance review of student discipline in Victor Valley Union High School District.
The review, initially launched in August 2014, “examined whether the District discriminated against African-American students by disciplining them more frequently and more harshly than similarly situated white students, in violation of the District’s obligation to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964”.
In its review process, the OCR examined school discipline data through 2019 and subsequently conducted a series of interviews involving District employees and students. The interviews began in 2020 and continued through this year.
The OCR concluded the district violated Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by discriminating against African American students based on race with regard to the administration of discipline.
So, 22 years into a new century despite the mandates of the 1964 Civil Rights Act or actions taken at the state level to alleviate discrimination in suspensions; and study after study has shown the detrimental affects of unwarranted discipline on students, it is unconscionable that school leaders who themselves chose careers to positively shape young minds and groom young lives, would intentionally perpetuate harm against Black children and youth. But, that is exactly what was done in the Victor Valley High School District.
In response, a corrective action plan has been detailed and accepted by the OCR and agreed to by the school district. But, what about the young Black lives damaged as a result of such discriminatory action? What types of counseling will they receive to repair the damage done to their young psyches? What about the teachers and administrators who knowingly perpetuated the discrimination? How many of them will be disciplined for violating the law and/or suspended and lose pay?
The mitigating plan of action is rote. More needs to be done beyond the business as usual process changes, etc. I believe until teachers and administrators are held personally accountable for such open defiance of the law, real change will remain illusive and Black children will continue paying the price.
Of course this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.
Watch for a full report on the Office of Civil Rights compliance review of the Victor Valley Union High School District in the IE Voice and Black Voice News in the coming weeks.