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Seattle schools’ treatment of black students investigated

The U.S. Education Department is looking into possible discrimination in the Seattle Public Schools, following up on allegations and research that white students are treated better than black students. Education Department spokesman Jim Bradshaw told the Seattle Times that the department is investigating whether or not Washington’s largest school district discriminates against black students “more frequently and more harshly than similarly situated white students.” The investigation began in May after allegations of discrimination, the Times reported.

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SEATTLE — Seattle Schools Superintendent Jose Banda on Thursday night reacted for the first time to allegations that minority students are disciplined more harshly and frequently than white students.

The accusation sparked a federal investigation.

Banda basically acknowledged that there is a problem and has been a problem for a while now in what he calls “disproportionality.”

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education said it was investigating allegations that minority students in Seattle Public Schools are disciplined at a disproportionate rate compared to their white counterparts and that discipline is harsher.

No one is sure why or how widespread the problem and while the DOE looks into the problem, Banda acknowledged the district must do better.

“We’ve acknowledged, even before the federal government or the Department of Education came into investigate, that we have disproportionality, and that’s something that’s been a concern to the district for a while and something we’ve been working on,” Banda told Q13 FOX News Thursday night.

He added that the district will work collaboratively with the Department of Education on a plan to address the problem.

“We have been. We’ve been very open and transparent with them, providing whatever data they’ve requested, so not so much maybe a plan that they put together, but maybe a plan that we put together, that has action steps on how we can address this issue in a systemic way,” Banda said.

Banda added that any plan to solve the problem would have to be a far-reaching system-wide plan.

There’s no word on when the Department of Education investigation will be complete.

SEATTLE — It’s a disturbing trend that goes back nearly 20 years in Seattle public schools: Numbers show African American students are being disciplined more often, and some say more harshly, than other kids.

The U.S. Education Department is looking into possible discrimination in the Seattle Public Schools, following up on allegations and research that white students are treated better than black students.

According to Seattle Public Schools figures, more than 13%, or 408, black high school students were suspended in 2012, while only 4%, or 228, white students were given the same punishment.

“The numbers are startling in terms of what appears to be inequity,” said James Bible of the NAACP.

Bible feels the district is openly discriminating against black students.

“It’s not just the disproportionality. It’s the belief or knowledge that people are being sanctioned differently for the same exact actions, so what we’re hoping for is equitable and equal treatment that way,” said Bible.

Friends of the Children is a nonprofit organization that mentors at-risk youth starting in kindergarten, with the goal of getting them to graduation. They say another part of this puzzle is helping African American families prioritize education in their students’ lives.

“Kids come home and they’re homeless; they can have parents who have been arrested, or family members who have died from gang violence,” said program manager Edgar Masmela. “Homework at that point is very low on their priority list.

“But it’s the mentor’s job to ensure that work gets done. We’re in the schools, talking to the teachers, finding out what are the missing assignments and we’re really a preventative model to make sure that child doesn’t repeat the cycle,” said Masmela.

studentsSEATTLE — The federal government is looking into possible discrimination in the Seattle Public Schools, following up on allegations and research that white students are treated better than black students.

U.S. Department of Education Spokesman Jim Bradshaw told the Seattle Times Tuesday that the department is investigating whether or not Washington’s largest school district discriminates against black students “more frequently and more harshly than similarly situated white students.” The investigation began in May after allegations of discrimination, the Times reported.

The district, comprised of nearly 50,000 students, typically prizes its schools’ diversity. However, a 2012 education summary questions whether the district disciplined races differently.

The study showed that suspension rates among black students were the highest at 12.9 percent. Those numbers were followed by Hispanic students at 6.3, white students at 3.8 and Asian students at 2.4 percent.

The district confirmed those numbers Tuesday. Also, according to the Times, one-fourth of black middle schoolers have received short term suspensions since 1996, and Native Americans are disciplined more often than Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Bernardo Ruiz, the director of School Family Partnerships and Equity and Race Relations at Seattle Public Schools, said he didn’t know why different races were disciplined at different rates.

“Our data shows we have suspended kids of color at higher rate, and we don’t know why,” Ruiz said.

Recently, the school district has put together two advisory committees, the Positive Climate and Discipline and the Equity and Race, to help study the numbers and decide how they can be changed. Ruiz said suspension rates in the district are down to the lowest level they’ve been in 26 years, pointing toward a positive trend.

Students at Garfield High School showed mixed emotions regarding the statistics Tuesday. Jake Shields said, in his experience, students were punished the same if they were black or white. But Alisha Ibrahim said she has experienced discrimination, and it was because of her race.

Ruiz said the commitment to every child should be the same, and if it’s not, it’s something Seattle Public Schools will work to change.

“Our commitment is that every child stays in a safe, welcoming environment,” Ruiz said.

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