Two students and a local chapter of a national civil rights advocacy group have filed complaints against two public middle schools in Richmond, Virginia, over alleged discrimination. Students identified only by their initials — J.R., an eighth-grader at Boushall Middle School, and A.L., a sixth-grader at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School — along with the capital city's National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) branch cited what they say is the local school district's unfair discipline policies, according to Richmond.com.
The 28-page indictment lawyers filed Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Education alleges that the Richmond Public Schools district practiced inconsistent punishment regarding student code of conduct between black and disabled students and their peers. The document claims the schools have shown “a disorganized and internally inconsistent assortment of narrative, lists and charts.”
The complaint also alleged the school districts’ rules governing what is considered a behavioral violation were too vague, allowing teachers and administration to take disciplinary action towards students as they best see fit, which has resulted in the school system dishing out more frequent and extreme punishment towards black disabled students.
An analysis of 2014-15 school year data from the Virginia Department of Education listed in the complaint revealed black and disable students in Richmond were suspended almost 13 times the rate of white students without disabilities.
Lynetta Thompson, a rep from the Richmond NAACP branch working on the complaint, told the site that data only further proves that there are “deep-rooted issues within [Richmond’s] school system that need to be reformed.”
In the cases of J.R. and A.L., both of whom are described as black male students with disabilities, the complaint alleges children were unfairly and unnecessarily reassigned to the city’s beleaguered alternative schools over non-violent behavioral incidents as opposed to staff members taking action to assess behavior and create intervention plans. As per the student’s legal team, the schools should have taken more appropriate, less disruptive measures to address behavior.
The school district has agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights over the complaint. The NAACP and plaintiffs are not requesting financial compensation. Instead, they want better policies implemented in the district.
The U.S. Education Department’s 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection revealed racial disparities in public schools' disciplinary actions against black students. The report states 2.8 million K-12 students received out-of-school suspensions during the 2013-14 school year. About 1.1 million of those students were black. In addition, black K-12 students were 3.8 times more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions as white students specifically.