The Oakland school board on Thursday night unanimously approved an agreement with the Office for Civil Rights to reduce the number of out-of-school suspensions of its African-American students, according to the Oakland Tribune.
Parents, community organizers, district staff members and other leaders spoke passionately about the need to pass -- and to fully realize -- the plan, and to involve students, families and teachers in the push for change.
Chris Chatmon, director of the district's African American Male Achievement initiative, told the newspaper that the resolution will give the system the sense of urgency needed to change the status quo. He said that while African-American students made up 32 percent of OUSD's enrollment during the last school year, they received 63 percent of all suspensions.
This spring, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights began to investigate whether the school district treated black students more harshly than white students. Now that the board has approved the resolution, that investigation will come to a halt.
The five-year plan, which builds on ongoing programs such as restorative justice, focuses initially on 38 of the district's 86 schools, the newspaper reported. Its goals include an overall reduction in out-of-school suspensions, as well as the suspensions of African-American and special education students, who are far more likely to be sent home from school than their peers.
A recent analysis by the Urban Strategies Council found that 44 percent of the school system's black males who received suspensions in 2010-11 were suspended solely for defying authority. About 75 percent of the suspensions of black males were on the basis of defiance, threatening or attempting injury and obscenity, according to the agreement.
Oakland Local reported earlier this week that the plan also states the district will provide trauma support service to students and trauma sensitivity training to all teachers, administrators, counselors and aides to effectively help children traumatized by violence or loss of friends or family members to violence. By coincidence, the plan was discussed a day after 11-year-old Luis Duenas-Hernandez of Oakland was sent to Children’s Hospital Oakland with a bullet lodged in his liver. Administrators at his school - Alliance Academy - offered counseling to his schoolmates, Oakland Local reported, noting that the plan acknowledged how trauma can provoke behavior problems.