Christina School District Officials To Appear Before a City Council Committee to Discuss Resolution Agreement Regarding Disciplinary Practices Toward African American Students

Posted on  06/11/2013 5:00 pm

Wilmington City Council’s Education, Youth and Families Committee will hold a meeting Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers to hear from officials of the Christina School District as to how the District is reforming its disciplinary practices as they relate to the treatment of African American students. Council President Theo Gregory and Committee Chair Ernest “Trippi” Congo invite citizens to attend this important meeting.

Council President Gregory said the education of young people and the environment in which young people are expected to learn is a vital area of concern to many in the community.“It is important that we inform the community when it comes to education issues that affect our children and their families,” said the Council President. “It is equally important that we provide a forum in which the community can receive information from school officials and ask questions of those officials. On behalf of all of Council, I thank the Christiana School District for its cooperation in this committee meeting.”

“Even though the City has no statutory authority in the area of education, the city has a long history of monitoring education practices affecting City children,” said Committee Chair Congo. “While we are pleased that this matter within the Christina District appears to be headed toward resolution, how we got into this situation and how the community responded to these concerns are just as important as ensuring that students are being treated fairly. I am pleased that Christina officials will join us for a community discussion.”

Background on the Christina District Disciplinary Issues

The Christina School District was cited by U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin by recipients of Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. The findings resulted from an analysis of discipline data by OCR for the school years of 2008-2009; 2009-2010; and 2010-2011. The Christina School District was formally notified of these findings in a letter dated December 14, 2012. The District subsequently entered into a Resolution Agreement with OCR to take corrective action to ensure that its disciplinary policies, practices and procedures are administered in a non-discriminatory manner.

Some of the Major Findings Related to the Resolution Agreement:

  • The Christina School District discriminated against African American students by disciplining them more frequently and more harshly than similarly situated white students.
  • African American students were disproportionately referred for discipline, suspended and referred to law enforcement authorities compared to white students to a statistically significant degree.
  • The District permitted penalties in excess of the provisions in the Student Code of Conduct.
  • A review of 1600 student files indicated that less than half were given the opportunity to tell their side of the story before the penalty was imposed.
  • There was little or no documentation of information that was given to parents regarding the discipline of the children.
  • Examples of discriminatory actions were found at the elementary, middle and high school levels and covered a wide range of conduct, including cutting class, smoking, using foul language, engaging in unsafe horse play during science lab, pulling fire alarms, aggressively touching another student or teacher, making a bomb threat and having a box cutter or small knife.

Substantive Provisions of the Resolution Agreement:

  • The District is to hire a consultant to review its disciplinary policies.
  • Strategies are to be implemented for student development outside of the disciplinary system.
  • Discipline policies are to be revised in consultation with the consultant.
  • The District is to hire a Discipline Supervisor who will be responsible for ensuring policies concerning discipline are “fair and equitable.”
  • Staff and students are to be trained, emphasizing the District’s commitment using policies referenced in the Resolution Agreement.
  • The District is to develop an information program for the parents or guardians of all students explaining policies referenced in the Agreement.
  • The District is to ensure that all actions taken by School Resource Officers (SROs are trained police officers) are reported to the District Office and SRO interventions and practices are reviewed.
  • Uniform standards are to be established for the content of student discipline files at all District schools to ensure accurate and complete records of all discipline incidents.

The Christina School District agreed to strict reporting requirements and timetables until the duration of the monitoring of the Resolution Agreement is closed. OCR may initiate administrative enforcement or judicial proceedings to enforce the specific terms and obligations of the Agreement, if it finds that the District is not complying with the Agreement.  The monitoring of the Agreement will not be closed until OCR has determined that the District has fulfilled the terms of the Agreement.