In OKC Schools, ‘Intense’ Reforms Proposed for Racial Disparities in Discipline

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The Oklahoma City Public Schools administration building.

Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma City Public Schools administration building.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools district proposes addressing racial disparities in discipline through an “intense process” of reforms, an attorney for the district told the school board Monday evening.

The proposal is intended to resolve a 2014 complaint being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that the school district disciplined minority students more frequently and more harshly.

Attorney Brandon Carey, speaking to the school board, said the proposal includes looking at root causes of racial disparities in discipline, revising district policies, practices and procedures, providing training for teachers, staff and school resource officers and offering support to students exhibiting behavior issues, among others.

While the proposal is not yet finalized, the district has started implementing some of the reforms.

Federal authorities will monitor the district’s progress. Reforming the district’s discipline practices is expected to take two-and-a-half to three years, Carey said.

The 2014 complaint is one of three open investigations involving Oklahoma City Public Schools.

The Office for Civil Rights is also looking into whether the school district:
• Failed to provide male and female students with equal opportunity or access to athletic activities. The investigation was initiated in 2007.
• Discriminated against students with disabilities. The probe began in 2011.

A fourth investigation was opened Dec. 3 to determine whether the district applied differential treatment or excluded or denied benefits to students with disabilities. That probe was resolved Feb. 23 through a voluntary agreement.

In that agreement, the school district agreed to revise the student’s individualized education program, or IEP, and determine whether the student requires compensatory services for the 2015-16 school year.

District officials also agreed to provide training on the student’s IEP to teachers and other affected staff.