KQED News: Oakland School District and Feds Agree on Changes to School Discipline

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October 1, 2012
By Barbara Grady

The Oakland Unified School District board agreed Thursday night to take  specific steps to eradicate racial bias in school discipline, voting unanimously to enter a voluntary resolution with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights.

The resolution focuses on replacing suspensions - which historically OUSD meted out to African American boys with much greater frequency than to other students - with restorative justice and positive behavior intervention practices and requiring training for all OUSD staff in these practices as well as in classroom management. The resolution includes about a dozen other specific actions the school district must take, many of which it has already begun.

At a packed school board meeting Thursday night, OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith called the agreement "an exciting opportunity to continue work," along a path that OUSD started with its strategic plan of creating Full Service Community Schools in the district and launching the African American Male Achievement Initiative. But he and others acknowledged the resolution means accelerating those efforts.

"We will further work that is already underway" Smith said. What have been pilot projects in restorative justice will need to be expanded and brought to every school, starting with 38 the DOE cited for disproportionate use of suspensions as discipline of African American boys.

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