Wilmington, DOE Resolve Civil Rights Investigation

The long-standing civil rights investigation of the Wilmington, Delaware school district by the U.S. Department of Education has finally been resolved. The DOE's Office of Civil Rights was looking into allegations that schools in the district applied more harsh discipline measures — and more frequently — against African-American students. According to a press release, an agreement between the OCR and the Christina School District – the largest in Delaware – will serve as a resolution of the matter.

Under the agreement, the district is committing to limiting the kinds of disciplinary infractions that will result in removal from class. Officials will also work with experts to design and implement a discipline policy that aims to reduce discrimination in how punishments for disciplinary infractions are enforced. The district will also provide support services for students who have chronic behavioral issues in order to reduce their disruptiveness both to their classmates and teachers.

To help both the ORC and administrators monitor how schools are abiding by the agreement, data collection policies on discipline imposed will be strengthened and regular reviews will be instituted. In addition, all staff will undergo training on the new policies, and the district will establish better communication pathways between itself and the students, parents and guardians so that behavior expectations are clearly outlined and understood.

"Discrimination in the application of discipline policies is inherently wrong and all too common," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "Enforcing civil rights law is one of our most profound responsibilities, but our Office for Civil Rights also stands ready to work proactively with districts on strategies to prevent discipline-related discrimination before it occurs."

The resolution was welcomed as an opportunity to create a new disciplinary system that will deal equitably with all students regardless of race or gender. In this way, it will foster a closer student and staff community as well as promote better academic outcomes for students by making sure that they spend less time outside of class.

In announcing the agreement, Seth Galanter, acting assistant secretary for civil rights, said, "We conducted a comprehensive and robust investigation, and the district gave us their full cooperation. Today's agreement will go a long way toward preventing any further discrimination in the implementation of discipline."

The implementation of the agreement will be monitored by the OCR, who set no firm guideline on when the monitoring will cease. Instead, the press release says that OCR will continue to oversee the district's progress until it is determined that is in full compliance will Title IV.

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