At the Christina School District in Delaware, 71 percent of black male students were suspended in a recent school year, compared to 22 percent of their white male counterparts, Ali said.
The district has repeatedly been under the national spotlight for its strict enforcement of a zero tolerance policy, going so far as to order a third-grader expelled whose grandmother sent her to school with a birthday cake and a knife to cut it. The expulsion was overturned, and a district spokeswoman said they no longer have a zero tolerance policy.
Zero tolerance policies, which enact harsh punishments on everything from swearing to weapons or drug possession, have been widely instituted. Critics say they are ineffective and a one-size fits all solution, and are partly to blame for the growing disparity between white and black discipline rates and a school-to-prison pipeline for those punished.
The compliance reviews will try to determine whether such policies are having a disparate impact — a different result on students of a particular race or gender — and if there is an educational justification.
Ali said that in some cases, administrators do not know they are discriminating.
“There’s not a superintendent or a school official or a teacher that I’ve met anywhere that says I go to work every day wanting to violate students civil rights,” Ali said. “The problem is in far too many cases they actually don’t understand what their responsibilities are.”
I am proud to say that CSD has moved away from Zero Tolerance with our new code for 2010-2011. We did this with partners like Jea Street helping to lead the charge BEFORE the OCR even started this audit! This BOE is leading and acting ……instead of reacting.