Civil Rights Investigation Opened Into Richmond Public Schools

Racial disparities in the school district’s suspension rates were cited by advocacy groups.

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced it began an investigation into Richmond Public Schools’ disciplinary policies April 17.

Advocacy groups claim the school district’s policies discriminate against black students and students with disabilities, reports The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The groups cite Virginia Department of Education data showing disparities in suspension rates for those groups compared to white students.

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State data shows that black students with disabilities are nearly 13 times more likely to receive short-term suspensions than white students. That disparity comes as nearly one in four students were suspended from eight schools in the district during the 2014-2015 academic year.

District officials said in August that they will cooperate with the Department of Education. RPS Spokeswoman Kenita Bowers also said the district was making changes to its disciplinary policies. Those changes include revising the student code of conduct, improving training for staff members and creating a tiered model of intervention.

“As part of these guidelines, faculty and staff now consider factors such as the nature/seriousness of the violation, the student’s age, the student’s previous disciplinary record and any other relevant circumstances when determining the most appropriate disciplinary interventions/consequences,” Bowers said.

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