Kansas School District Disciplined Black And Disabled Students More Severely Than Others, DOJ Says

Drone aerial view of downtown Wichita Skyline features Arkansas Rivers, bridges and Exploration Place Science Museum, Kansas

Source: Joe Sohm/Visions of America / Getty

On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced that it reached an agreement with Wichita Public Schools after an investigation into race and disability discrimination in Kansas’ largest school district.

According to the DOJ, the district has agreed to revise practices to prevent discrimination in discipline and referrals of students to law enforcement, end the use of seclusion, reform its restraint practices and improve services to students with disabilities in certain schools and classrooms by Jan. 1, 2025.

DOJ’s investigation into Wichita Public Schools found that the district’s Black students were disciplined more frequently and more severely than white students who engaged in similar conduct and had similar backgrounds and disciplinary histories. In particular, when it came to disciplining Black girls, their behavior was repeatedly characterized using stereotypical terms like “attitude” or “drama.

The investigation also found that the district inappropriately and repeatedly secluded and restrained students with disabilities in inferior facilities with inadequate services and support.

“Black students inside our nation’s public schools should not have to face discipline or a referral to law enforcement because of their race,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a press release. “And students with disabilities should not have to experience the trauma of seclusion or improper restraint. Schools in our communities should not be a place of fear or mistrust. This agreement upholds our core principles of ending the school-to-prison pipeline and protecting our most vulnerable students against all forms of discrimination and segregation.”

The department also revealed racial discrimination in referrals to law enforcement and a pattern of security officers responding to routine discipline matters and escalating those incidents, resulting in the unnecessary referral of Black students to law enforcement for routine or minor misbehavior.

When it came to students with disabilities, DOJ found that students with disabilities received more than 98% of the district’s roughly 3,000 restraints and seclusions. At least 44 students experienced 20 or more restraints and seclusions during the period covered by the investigation, and one student was restrained or secluded at least 144 times, including 99 seclusions lasting over 15 hours in total. DOJ also visited the district’s special schools for students with behavioral disabilities and found facilities with no furniture or educational equipment.

Wichita Public Schools have fully cooperated with the investigation, according to DOJ.

From the Department Of Justice:

Under the agreement, the district will, among other steps:

  • Develop a district-wide code of conduct, standardize dress code policies and create a behavior intervention protocol to ensure the nondiscriminatory administration of discipline and prohibit unnecessary exclusion of students from the school environment;
  • Create a system of district-level monitoring of schools’ administration of discipline to ensure nondiscrimination;
  • Ensure that school security and law enforcement only become involved in student misbehavior in appropriate circumstances and thereby avoid criminalizing routine school discipline matters;
  • Eliminate the use of seclusion;
  • Restrain students only when their behavior poses an imminent danger of serious physical harm to the student or another person, properly document all restraints and provide students who are restrained or secluded with required interventions;
  • Ensure that only professionals with the requisite expertise and training run and staff specialized schools for students with disabilities;
  • Provide counseling and compensatory education to students who have been repeatedly secluded; and
  • Create an office to monitor the district’s restraint practices (and seclusion until it is eliminated) to ensure compliance with the agreement and assist district staff in providing required interventions and support.


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The post Kansas School District Disciplined Black And Disabled Students More Severely Than Others, DOJ Says appeared first on NewsOne.

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