U.S. Education Department will monitor student suspensions in Oakland (Calif.) district

News release from the U.S. Department of Education: The U.S. Department of Education and the Oakland (Calif.) school district have reached an agreement over allegations that the district disciplined African-American students more frequently and harshly than white students.

Oakland officials will revise its disciplinary policies and work to reduce the use of suspensions in addressing student misbehavior.

"The district's commitments in this unprecedented and far-reaching agreement will lead to less frequent use of exclusionary discipline and increased educational opportunities," says Russlyn Ali, the U.S. Department of Education's assistant secretary for civil rights. "The challenges addressed by this agreement are not unique to Oakland. But the district's cooperation, commitment to crafting effective solutions, and fundamental agreement that every student deserves an equal opportunity at a world-class education made for a model process I hope to see repeated again and again across the country."

Under the agreement, the Oakland district says it will take several actions to “ensure to the maximum extent possible that misbehavior is addressed in a manner that does not require removal from school.”

The steps:

  • Collaborate with experts in research-based strategies that develop positive school climates by preventing discrimination in the use of school discipline.

  • Identify at-risk students and provide them with services to decrease behavioral difficulties, and continue to provide academic services for students who are removed from school for disciplinary reasons.

  • Review and revise its disciplinary policies.

  • Provide training for staff and administrators on district discipline policies, and develop and carry out programs for students, parents and guardians that will explain discipline policies and behavioral expectations and that will inform parents and guardians of their right to raise concerns and file complaints concerning discipline.

  • Conduct an annual survey of students, staff, community members and parents regarding discipline.

  • Improve its collection of discipline data collection so it can evaluate discipline policies and practices, with the goal of replicating best practices throughout the district.

The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights will monitor the Oakland district's progress in complying with the agreement.

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