Petitioning Superintendent of Sarasota County Schools Lori White and 3 others

Increase pathways to educational success for Black children in Sarasota county schools

Did you know that a Black child in Sarasota, Florida is 5 times more likely to be labeled with a disability than a White student? Once they are labeled, that same child is now 9 times more likely to be suspended or expelled. At Discriminology, we believe this to be grossly unfair and has no place in a 21st century public education system.

From the data available, we know that Black students are disproportionately suspended, expelled, referred to the criminal justice system and labeled with disabilities by public schools in Sarasota county, Florida.

In Sarasota County Public Schools, African-American Children are:

  • 5x more likely to be labeled with an emotional/behavioral disorder (EBD) than White students 
  • 9x more likely to be suspended or expelled if labeled with a disability
  • 4x more likely to be referred to the Juvenile Justice System
  • 5x more likely to be expelled than White students

For the full report go to: discriminology.com/sarasota

More than 60 years after the United States Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to send African-American students to separate & unequal schools; we still have an education system that continues to dramatically disadvantage minority children, families and communities.

Just as a good education has positive effects that are still felt long after graduation, not receiving a good education has serious negative effects that last a lifetime. The research and data are clear. Students that are suspended, expelled and labeled with disabilities are much more likely to:

  • Have lower status employment & wages as an adult
  • Have an adverse encounter with law enforcement
  • Enter the juvenile justice system
  • Dropout of high school
  • Repeat a grade
  • Be arrested
  • Commit a crime

We publish and pore over high school graduation rates, and puzzle over ways to increase test scores. In these conversations, though, we often leave out an important part of the problem: actions taken by schools that actively hurt students and make it harder for them to succeed.

The racial disparities in education serve to fuel the mass racial inequalities that we see in our criminal justice system. One in every three black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life compared with one in every 17 white males. These types of negative racial disparities pervade every stage of the United States criminal justice system and it is directly connected to our public education system.

By creating and perpetuating policies that allow such racial disparities to exist in its educational and criminal justice systems, the United States is in violation of its obligations under Article 2 and Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to ensure that all its citizens—regardless of race—are treated equally under the law.

We appeal to you to act in the interest of the public good and children's rights to stand with us in petitioning Sarasota county schools to end this unfair and unjust practice of disproportionately punishing and labeling Black children, which directly pushes more of our youth into the School-to-prison pipeline.

These unfair educational practices that hurt students of color involve many complicated and interrelated factors, but there are proven steps that we can take right now that would help. 

  1. Cultural diversity training: "To meet the needs of African American students, educators and the designers of the instructional curricula must develop a familiarity with and understanding of the culture of this group of students through systematic pre-service and in-service training (Hilliard, 1980). As with teachers, a new paradigm of training school psychologists is needed to reverse the deficit view of African American students and families (Harry, 1992; Hilliard, 1992). School psychologists must develop cross cultural competencies to deal with the unique needs of ethnocultural minorities (Kearns, et al., 2005)."
  2. Hire more Black and Brown teachers: "Perhaps most important, the teacher workforce must be diversified. A number of researchers have documented how African American teachers are more sensitive to the backgrounds and needs of African American students, and are therefore less likely to refer these students to special education programming (Serwatka, et al., 1995; Talbert-Johnson, 2001; Taylor, et al., 2001). Yet, the numbers of African American teachers have declined in recent years (Welch, Patterson, Scott & Pollard, 2007). Therefore the chronic shortage of African American K-12 educators must be addressed (Wood, 2002)."
  3. Mandatory implicit bias and anti-racism training: "Disproportionality must be addressed before teachers enter the classroom as an educator. In most teacher education and administrator preparation programs, too little emphasis is placed on racial disproportionality in discipline and ways educators help sustain the school-to-prison pipeline. The curriculum within teacher education programs should include a focus on implicit bias and institutional racism. Student teachers should be mandated to complete anti-racism training such as the Undoing Racism Workshop by the People’s Institute, and increase their awareness of racially biased ways of perceiving students."
  4. Greater data transparency: "We need to place greater importance on getting data from schools on the use of suspensions, expulsions and arrests in schools. Getting complete data on who suffers these punishments and who is being identified, why they receive them, and what the outcomes of the punishment are can help us fully understand what is happening in our nation’s schools."
  5. Move from Euro-centric to more diverse curriculum: "Education must incorporate culturally relevant curricula and pedagogy that builds the self-esteem, self-image, and racial identity of African descended children not just children of european decent. Curricula must present historical truths about Africa and its peoples."
  6. Mandatory curriculum on the Transatlantic Slave Trade and events that followed (KKK, Jim Crow, Redlining etc): The systematic, planned enslavement and dehumanization of people of African decent was a watershed event in the history of humanity and should be examined on multiple levels. It should be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior (self-hate, Implicit bias and cognitive dissonance), current events (Black Lives Matter and Police brutality), an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism (Macro and Micro), and stereotyping. Emphasizes should be placed on what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values.
  7. Zero tolerance for zero tolerance policies: We need to provide much better guidance to schools on best practices (restorative justice and peer mediation) so that student discipline is handled fairly instead of through arbitrary and heavy-handed ‘zero tolerance’ policies.
  8. Restorative justice works: Schools need to move from the punitive, suspension/expulsion model to restorative justice practices. Instead of suspending or expelling students who get into fights or act out, restorative justice seeks to resolve conflicts and build school community through talking and group dialogue.
  9. More parent engagement: "African American parents, like their children, have been alienated from public education. The entirety of American public education has been marked with systemic exclusion from quality instruction with presumptions of racial inferiority. The cultural mistrust among students was often a reflection of a similar mistrust on the part of parents. Such mistrust may, in fact, be well deserved (Ryan, 1976). Yet, African American parents must be more engaged and involved in their children’s education for us to finally have true educational equity for our children."

America's education system is broken and it's failing our children and hurting our communities.

By signing our petition, you’re joining a global movement with like-minded people who believe that a great public education is a right and must be made available to all on equal terms, no matter the color of your skin.

The unfair discipline practices, the achievement gap, the dropout crisis, and the school-to-prison pipeline are real issues that need to be addressed now. It is time for everyone who cares about education and our nation’s children to come together and act.

 

Sources: 

U.S. Department of Education. Civil Rights Data Collection (2011-2012), District Reports & Detailed Data Tables, Florida: http://ocrdata.ed.gov

The Association of Black Psychologists (2012). Special Education and the Mis-education of African American Children: A Call to Action

Smith, E. J., & Harper, S. R. (2015). Disproportionate impact of K-12 school suspension and expulsion on Black students in southern states. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education.

The Sentencing Project (2013). Report of The Sentencing Project to the United Nations Human Rights Committee: Regarding Racial Disparities in the United States Criminal Justice System 

This petition will be delivered to:
  • Superintendent of Sarasota County Schools
    Lori White
  • Vice Chair of Sarasota County School Board
    Caroline Zucker
  • Sarasota County Commissioner
    Carolyn Mason
  • Secretary of Education
    John King Jr.


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