School District Investigated for Discrimination

Meya Smith

Discrimination: making a distinction in favor of or against a person based on the group or category that person belongs to instead of their individual stature.

Law on discrimination in school: Tile VI Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that Discrimination based on race, color, national origin, mental/physical ability is prohibited in facilities receiving federal financial assistance.

Michael Clara, a Salt Lake School district board member, filed a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Civil Rights earlier this year claiming that our school district has been treating the students of color and students with disabilities unfairly.

American Kids & the School-To-Prison Pipeline, a video on YouTube, explains that children with disabilities are two times more likely to get out-of-school suspension than those without. The same study claimed that black students are expelled three times more than white, and our black students are receiving much harsher punishments than Caucasian students for doing the same thing. Even worse, an article on KSL.com titled “SL School District Under Investigation for Claims of Discrimination” says American-Indian students are getting reprimanded six times more than they typically would for their percentage of Utah’s student body. Hispanics; however, are one times more.

The case is related to the school-to-prison pipeline, which refers to the policies and practices that pull our students out of classrooms and into juvenile and criminal justice systems. The district’s zero tolerance policy is handing minor offenses, which originally would’ve been dealt with by the principal, to the school’s resource officer. This can now potentially lead to a student’s arrest. It is being looked into by the Civil Rights Department of Education whether the reason for School Resource Officers (SROs) has any correlation to the racial composition of the student body at schools such as Glendale and Northwest Middle school.

It’s a concern for parents that resource officers are not being appropriately trained. A third grade boy diagnosed with ADHD in Covington Kentucky was restrained by his biceps behind his back by County Deputy Sheriff Kevin Sumner because the boy’s behavior (related to his disability) wasn’t compliant to what the sheriff was telling him to do. As the boy sat crying, Sumner stood and watched. Deputy Sheriff Kevin Sumner has done this to another child with ADHD before. Kevin and the County Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn are both going to court, Korzenborn for inadequate training. A video of the encounter is available on YouTube titled “Cop Handcuffs Child with ADHD”.  Having SROs on campus can be extremely terrifying to parents, especially those whose children have special needs, not knowing whether they’ve been properly trained. SROs are becoming more and more common at schools. Especially ones where there is a high percentage of colored students. The district needs to be persistent and be sure whoever they hire is adequately trained to deal with any and all situations.

The Civil Rights Department of Education is investigating the case and though it is undecided whether the allegations are true, they are taking the matter seriously and are trying to finish the investigation as quickly as possible. If it is proven there is unfair treatment and there is no resolution, the district could lose federal funding and then further be punished by the Department of Justice. Students and teachers of all backgrounds need to learn that we are all part of something much greater and there is no reason not to get along. If not, we may be in trouble.

 

 

Resources: KSL.com: SL School District Under Investigation for Claims of Discrimination, ACLU.com, YouTube: American Kids & The School-To-Prison Pipeline and Cop Handcuffs Child with ADHD