Department of Justice investigating South Bend Schools

NOW: Department of Justice investigating South Bend Schools

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -  The Department of Justice is looking into the South Bend School Corporation. The DOJ is visiting several South Bend schools to investigate and offer recommendations regarding any disparities in discipline procedures.

According to school officials, Washington High School is the first stop the DOJ is making before visiting 7 other schools in the South Bend School District. It’s all in an effort to look further into any disparities in school discipline data.

“The visit is yet another thing that we’re doing to get data and disproportionality right and so whether it’s federal dollars, it’s the DOJ visit, it’s the researching programs,” Superintendent Todd Cummings said.

They are looking into 7 schools. On Wednesday, officials visited Washington High School.

On Thursday they will visit Lincoln Elementary School, Jefferson Traditional School, Clay International Academy and Clay High School.

On Friday they will be at Coquillard Elementary School and Navarre Middle School.

Cummings says this visit as been in the works for months.

“They’re here today to ask us how we do processes and protocols, they’re taking a look at our data and our data-gathering systems and then specifically they’re interviewing principals and people who input data to make sure there are no disconnects that we’re getting our data reported correctly,” Cummings said.

It’s all in an effort to curb troubling racial disparities seen in recent data, showing black students have disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates when compared to white students.

 “It fits into the school to prison pipeline and it’s very detrimental to the African American community,” Amanda Parkinson, one parent, said.

The superintendent tells ABC57 an expert in discipline disparities is also making the trip to help out with this investigation.

“This is the first time he’s been here on site. And so, as I became superintendent, I said let’s not have him on phone calls, let’s get him here for technical support,” Cummings said.

Parents and grandparents tell ABC57 it’s a good idea.

“I think it’s absolutely necessary now to have them come in and give recommendations,” she said.

“They need to come, it’s time,” Lynn Collier, a lifelong resident and grandparent said. “The state of the schools in South Bend, Indiana are needing to improve across the board if we’re going to maintain a standard of quality.”

But some wonder if it will do anything at all.

“That’s been an ongoing issue and each time that it has come up it gets a little PR and perhaps programs were put in place that wasn’t as effective, perhaps it could’ve been or should’ve been so nothing has really changed,” she said.

DOJ officials should be giving results and recommendations to school officials on Friday.

We’ll keep you posted with what we find out.

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