OAKLAND (AP) — The Oakland school board has agreed to allow federal officials to monitor the district's efforts to reduce the disproportionately high suspension rates of African-American students.
The school board voted 6-0 on Thursday to accept federal monitoring for at least five years at 38 schools in the Oakland Unified School District, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The agreement concludes that the U.S. Department of Education's investigation into whether black students are disciplined more frequently and harshly than white classmates in Oakland.
Data shows that 1 out of 5 black students were suspended at least once last year, about six times the rate of white students. In middle school, 1 out of every 3 black boys was suspended at least once.
"Historically, they have been the whipping boys in our district," Chris Chatmon, executive director of the district's African-American Male Achievement Office, told the school board. "We are here today to ante up and reclaim our children."
Under the agreement with the department's Office of Civil Rights, the district plans to revise disciplinary policies, provide training for teachers and administrators, seek to address misbehavior without suspensions and provide support services to at-risk students.
Federal education officials say they hope Oakland can serve as a model for other districts that are seeking to address disproportionately high rates of suspensions of minority students.
"Disparities in disciplinary procedures are inherently wrong and all too common," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. "I commend Oakland for being the first district to directly confront this challenge."