U.S. Department of Education Announces Voluntary Resolution of Oakland Unified School District Civil Rights Investigation

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U.S. Department of Education Announces Voluntary Resolution of Oakland Unified School District Civil Rights Investigation

September 28, 2012

The U.S. Department of Education announced today the successful resolution of a compliance review concerning discipline in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), the fourteenth-largest school system in California.

A voluntary Resolution Agreement between Oakland Unified School District and the Department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) concludes an OCR investigation into whether African American students were disciplined more frequently and harshly than white students. It is also the first compliance review regarding discipline that the Department has resolved in recent years.

"Disparities in disciplinary procedures are inherently wrong and all too common," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "I commend Oakland for being the first district to directly confront this challenge. It can be a model for school districts everywhere who are struggling with similar issues."

In announcing the agreement, Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for Civil Rights, praised the leadership of Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Anthony Smith.

"The District's commitments in this unprecedented and far-reaching agreement will lead to less frequent use of exclusionary discipline and increased educational opportunities," said Assistant Secretary Ali. "The challenges addressed by this agreement are not unique to Oakland. But the District's cooperation, commitment to crafting effective solutions, and fundamental agreement that every student deserves an equal opportunity at a world-class education made for a model process I hope to see repeated again and again across the country."

Under the comprehensive OCR agreement OUSD will:

  • Ensure to the maximum extent possible that misbehavior is addressed in a manner that does not require removal from school.
  • Collaborate with experts in research-based strategies that develop positive school climates by preventing discrimination in the implementation of school discipline.
  • Identify at-risk students and provide them with support services in order to decrease behavioral difficulties, and continue to provide academic services for students who are removed from school for disciplinary reasons.
  • Review and revise its disciplinary policies.
  • Provide training for staff and administrators on its discipline policies, and develop and implement programs for students, parents and guardians that will explain the District's discipline policies and behavioral expectations and that will inform parents and guardians of their right to raise concerns and file complaints concerning discipline.
  • Conduct an annual survey of students, staff, community members and parents regarding discipline.
  • Improve its discipline data collection system in order to evaluate discipline policies and practices, with the goal of replicating "best practices" throughout the District.

OCR will monitor this agreement until such time as it determines that OUSD has fulfilled the terms of the agreement and is in compliance with Title VI.

A copy of the resolution agreement is posted online here. And, a copy of the letter of findings is posted here.

The enforcement of Title VI is a top priority of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

For more information about the Office for Civil Rights, see here. For details on how OCR handles civil rights cases, visit this Web site.