The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with the White Plains, N.Y., Public Schools. The agreement commits the district to ensuring that all students, including African American, Hispanic and English Language Learner (ELL) students, are provided with equal opportunity and equal access to challenging classes and programs that will put students on a pathway for success in college and careers.
Under the agreement, the district will, as necessary:
- Expand criteria to determine eligibility and selection for enrollment in programs and courses.
- Expand student, parent, and community outreach about the available courses and programs; and
- Make improvements to the academic counseling services at the middle and high school levels and training for relevant district and school site administrators and personnel.
These changes will be based on recommendations from an expert consultant, feedback from students, parents and staff, and a comprehensive self-assessment.
"Every student, regardless of his or her race, color, or national origin, must have an equal opportunity to participate in rigorous programs and courses that will put them on the right track toward being ready for college and careers," said Seth Galanter, acting assistant secretary for civil rights. "I applaud the steps the White Plains Public Schools have agreed to take to help ensure their compliance with Title VI."
OCR initiated a compliance review at White Plains under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to assess whether the district discriminated against minority students by establishing and implementing policies and procedures that resulted in their exclusion from enrichment programs, advanced/honors courses and Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
Because the district begins identifying students for its enrichment program as early as the end of second grade, it is critical that the process, criteria and communication about entry to the enrichment program ensure an equal opportunity for all students to access and participate in the program. These types of programs frequently serve as a path to advanced/honors courses and AP courses at the high school level. African American, Hispanic and ELL students had disproportionately lower enrollment in all those program and courses.
The district worked closely with OCR and voluntarily entered into a resolution agreement prior to the completion of the investigation.
As a result, OCR made no findings on lack of compliance. The office's investigation revealed, however, that a disproportionately low number of minority students were participating in the district's high school Honors and AP high school courses and in earlier enrichment programs and advanced courses at the elementary and middle school levels.
For example, during school year 2011-2012, African American students represented 18 percent of the high school student enrollment, but less than 10 percent (37 of 395 students), of the Honors and AP enrollment.
That same year, Hispanic students represented 47 percent of the high school student enrollment, but only 31 percent (122 of 395) of the Honors and AP enrollment; and ELL students represented 9 percent of the high school enrollment, but only 3 percent (10 of 395) of the Honors and AP enrollment. If minority students were provided equal opportunities to participate in enrichment programs in their earlier years, they would have been more likely to participate in Honors and AP classes proportionate to their high school enrollment; over 100 additional minority students would have been enrolled in Honors and AP.
A copy of the resolution letter is posted at: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/white-plains-school-district-letter.doc, and the agreement at: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/white-plains-school-district-resolution.doc.
OCR's mission is to ensure equal access to education and promote educational excellence throughout the nation through the vigorous enforcement of civil rights. OCR is responsible for enforcing federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of disability, race, color, national origin, sex, and age, as well as the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act of 2001.
For more information about the Office for Civil Rights, see http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/index.html. For details on how OCR handles civil rights cases, visit http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintprocess.html.