Feds looking into alleged civil rights violations in Durham schools

Posted June 20, 2013

High school class generic

— The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights is investigating whether Durham Public Schools disciplines black students and students with disabilities more than others, according to two groups who filed a formal complaint against the school system earlier this year.

The Advocates for Children's Services, a project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, and the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project of UCLA, alleges that the school district suspends black students at more than four times the rate of white students – often for minor, non-violent behavior, such as unexcused absences, dress code violations and cursing.

Citing data from the 2009-10 school year, 2,425 black students, or 14.1 percent of all black students enrolled in Durham schools, were suspended at least once. In contrast, the groups say, 3.3 percent of white students were suspended.

The school system also suspended 17 percent of all students with disabilities, compared with 8.4 percent of students without disabilities.

The complaint says students are "disproportionately harmed" by the district's "harsh" suspension policies and practices, and it asks that the Office of Civil Rights encourage the district to adopt "new non-discriminatory policies and practices that use out-of-school suspension as a last resort."

"We are glad that OCR is taking this complaint seriously," said Peggy Nicholson, an attorney with Advocates for Children's Services. "DPS's discriminatory discipline practices, whether intentional or not, have devastating effects on students, families, and our entire community."

Durham Public Schools' director of public information, Chip Sudderth, said the school district is cooperating in the investigation.

"We look forward to beginning the next school year in a spirit of inclusion and innovation that will help all of our students graduate prepared to succeed in college or career," Sudderth said.

The allegations stem from two students' experiences in the school system.

A 17-year-old 11th-grade student had been suspended for 165 days since middle school for behaviors that the groups say were linked to her mental health issues, of which the school system.

A 15-year-old eighth-grader fell behind in school and started failing classes after he was suspended for 24 days in the 2011-12 school year for behavior also linked to mental health issues.

"At no point did DPS discuss or consider substantive ways to address his problem behaviors without resorting to the punitive measure of out-of-school suspension. The school also failed to provide (him) with any education services while he was suspended, resulting in his falling even farther behind."


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  • mrman2a Jun 21, 2013

    If you are not there to learn stay home or be sent home no matter what your race.STOP CODDLING !

  • lrakydarb2 Jun 21, 2013

    This has NOTHING to do with the color of one's skin and EVERYTHING to do with culture.

    This is a result of "My kid is right and the teacher is wrong" culture.

    Or the "I will sue the school district if they treat my kid different than other kids even if he/she is a pain in the tush at home" culture.

    Or the "I don't have to obey authority because my mom and dad told me I didn't have to obey them" culture. It is CULTURE, not race.

    I would be willing to bet that the majority of parents of these kids act the same way in their home or work environment.

  • mramorak Jun 21, 2013

    Beautiful readme!!!!

  • mramorak Jun 21, 2013

    Whats racist whatelseisnew?

  • mramorak Jun 21, 2013

    1066 i love your post!!!!!! You are right on!!!

  • mramorak Jun 21, 2013

    LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!The minority is in the majority!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!How does that work???

  • Plenty Coups Jun 21, 2013

    "LOL, I think the libs have already labeled this "a cruel and unusual punishment." You can't even put a kid in the corner with his nose to the wall anymore. It's considered cruelty."

    This group is extreme left.

  • Plenty Coups Jun 21, 2013

    Looking at percentages of suspended students doesn't mean that there are civil rights violations. If you're not getting into trouble, you don't get suspended. The group that pushes this kind of nonsense makes it harder to make school an effective learning environment for those who want to be there.

  • Jack Flash Jun 21, 2013

    'Does anyone remember having to Write Off? 100 Times the first time "I WILL NOT TALK IN CLASS!" 200 times the second time, 300 times the 3rd time, etc.'

    Yeah, we stopped doing that not b/c kids are entitled little whiners, but b/c we got sick of trying to teach kids to get enthused about writing after we'd already trained them to see it as punishment.

    As usual, some people want their narrative to be the only one, and it's almost always a ridiculously oversimplified one. So rant about how you wrote sentences back in the day and how if teachers were just courageous enough to do that now instead of coddling kids it would solve the problem of students behaving badly b/c they haven't eaten since their free school lunch the day before. Yeah, you figured everything out in 1000 characters or less and now you can go back to not doing anything real to support schools or the impoverished.

  • hp277 Jun 21, 2013

    "The allegations stem from two students' experiences in the school system."

    2 students - out of more than 32,000. My goodness, that's a small sample size. This is absurd.