Legal Aid adds to civil rights complaint against Durham schools
Posted August 22, 2013
Durham, N.C. — Legal Aid of North Carolina and other groups have filed a supplement to a complaint two months ago in which they claim Durham Public Schools ha discriminatory discipline practices against minorities and disabled students.
The June 20 complaint alleges that the school district suspends black students at more than four times the rate of white students – often for minor, non-violent behavior.
The supplement, submitted Thursday by Legal Aid's Advocates for Children's Services to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, includes the case of an 8-year-old student with oppositional defiant disorder suspended at least 10 times, for a total of 17 days, over the past two years and "unofficially suspended" on at least 10 other occasions, which were not properly documented.
The student, who has the cognitive capacity to do well, ACS said in the supplement, has seen a steady decline in his grades since kindergarten and that his reading level, once above average, has fallen below the expected level.
The supplement also includes suspension data for the 2011-2012 school year, which wasn't available when ACS filed its complaint in June.
It shows that black students, representing more than half of the student population in Durham Public Schools, received 78.4 percent of all short-term suspensions and 77 percent of all long-term suspensions while white students received 5.3 percent of short-term suspensions and 8.2 percent of long-term suspensions. White students constitute 20.6 percent of the student population.
Chrissy Pearson, chief communications officer for Durham Public Schools, said in a statement Thursday that the school system is cooperating with the Office of Civil Rights.
"In the meantime, DPS remains committed to treating each of our students as individuals – with personalized learning and tools to address individual behaviors," Pearson said.
She went on to say that schools are continuing to work to reduce suspension rates and look for "positive alternatives" to make sure students receive the best education possible.