Feds to Monitor How Oakland Treats Black Kids

Can five years of federal monitoring reduce the troubling disparities in suspension rates at the California city's schools?

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There's no question that the disproportionately high rate of suspensions of black students in Oakland, Calif., is alarming. (Data released by the Department of Education in March showed that black students are three-and-a-half times as likely to be suspended or expelled as their white classmates.) But now it seems that serious steps are being taken to go beyond fretting and speculating about it to actually address what's going on with race and discipline in the classroom.

The Oakland School Board has voted to allow for at least five years of federal monitoring to help identify the problem and reduce the troubling disparities. From the Huffington Post:

The resolution, of which the Oakland school board voted 6-0 in favor, concludes an investigation by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights into whether discipline of black students was harsher and more frequent and harshly than for their white peers.

Under last week's agreement, federal officials will keep watch on 38 Oakland schools and oversee the district’s five-year plan to address students’ needs by offering mentoring services to at-risk students, providing training for teachers and staff and combatting disciplinary issues without resorting to suspensions.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, almost 20 percent of Oakland’s black males were suspended at least once last year -- six times the rate of white students. In middle school, one out of every three black students was suspended at least once. Furthermore, research conducted during the 2010-11 school year found that more than half of African American male students in the Oakland Unified School District are at risk of dropping out.

Read more at the Huffington Post.

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