Community groups talk discipline disparities in SBCSC
Several community groups spoke at the South Bend Community School board meeting on Monday about the disparities in disciplining black students.
“We’re here tonight to bring awareness to the school board and also to Dr. Spells that we are tired of what is happening in the schools to black children we’re still seeing dis proportionality in terms of suspension and we are not seeing enough being done about it,” says Jorden Giger, community activist.
In a joint release from the IUSB Black Student Union, Community Action for Education, Black Lives Matter – South Bend Chapter, and Nu Black Power Movement of South Bend:
“Feigned Progress and Unchecked Incompetence”
According to the Indiana Department of Education, black students make up 36% of South Bend Community School Corporation’s student population. Data collected during the 2015-2016 school year indicates that out of 133 expulsions, African American students accounted for 96, or 72% of all of them. There were 2043 out-of-school suspensions and 7020 in-school suspensions. Black boys alone accounted for 41% of all in-school suspensions and 43% of all out-of-school suspensions. The amount of time students spent out of school has not improved. The South Bend Tribune published an article entitled “School discipline still lopsided for black students in South Bend.” According to Christian Sheckler, author of the piece, “Black students, who make up about one-third of the district’s population, received 66 percent of this year’s 5,092 out-of-school suspensions through spring break, according to the new data. That’s an increase from the 2015-2016 school year, when black students accounted for 64 percent of those suspensions. White students, on the other hand, accounted for just 13 percent of the out-of-school suspensions over the same period.”
Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Spells is quoted to have said, “We do have to celebrate some of the positives, expulsions are going down, suspensions are going down”. The amount of documented suspensions might be going down, but the illegal, undocumented suspensions that we spoke about at the School Board meeting on March 6th are still taking place. This practice is known as the “purple pass” at Clay High School and the “shadow suspension system” at Riley. Although the numbers on paper look like the suspensions rates are decreasing, students are still being sent home every day without paperwork and without due process, and parents do not know what to do. Let’s also remember that Dr. Spells was referring to data presented by Dr. David Moss, who is the Director of African American Student and Parent Services, that compared data from the full 2015-2016 school year to year-to-date data for the current 2016-2017 school year, which, at that time when he gave his statement, could not possibly represent or account for the number of suspensions that would come during the last quarter of this school year. There are parents about to lose their jobs because the school is calling them every day to take their child home, and many parents do not have the time or skills to do the school’s job for them.
Dr. Spells is not responsible for the longstanding challenges the school corporation faces. We believe that Dr. Spells has been set up to fail. We believe he was not at all aware of how deeply entrenched these issues are in the corporation prior to accepting the superintendent position. He was selected to be a black face, the black fall guy, for the corporation.
The blame falls on most of the current the school board members, Dr. David Moss, and building administrators. They have failed African American students and they have failed to provide a quality education for the students of South Bend. For the past school year they have shown nothing but incompetence, and have feigned progress in South Bend schools. This no longer a plea for them to lower the disproportionate suspension rates for African Americans students, and to investigate the illegal, undocumented suspensions in schools. We are telling them to do it, and if they do not, they will all be held accountable.
Our demands are as follows:
1. A complete halt of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for truancy and other non-violent offenses;
2. A thorough investigation of the undocumented suspensions at Riley and Clay High Schools, which would include as part of the investigation interviews with students who are incessantly suspended and have suspicious attendance records;
3. An investigation of the Special Education Department as it has not effectively protected the rights of special education students, who are disproportionately black;
4. That the corporation implement, with fidelity, Culturally Responsive Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (CRPBIS), along with the Code of Conduct which calls for continuous cultural competency training and the use of restorative justice practices as alternatives to suspensions; and, most importantly,
5. That Dr. Spells transition Dr. Moss into a different role within the corporation, thus removing him from directorship of the Department of African American Student and Parent Services and replacing him with a competent, aggressive, and bold leader with classroom teaching experience and deep, meaningful ties to the black community of South Bend. It is imperative that we maintain this department.?
Superintendent Dr. Ken Spells says he understands the frustrations and because of those concerns they are considering holding some sort of town hall in the future.
“We are meeting as a cabinet and looking at the disparity issues and we are also meeting with the community members. We know it is a problem and we are trying to address it, we know we have to get it done we owe it to our kids and I’m going to work with the community to get it done,” says Dr. Spells.
Calls to Dr. Moss for comment have not yet been returned.