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SPLC and Florida school district reach settlement to end racially discriminatory school discipline

Florida’s Flagler County School Board adopted a wide-ranging plan today to eliminate racial disparities in school discipline – resolving a federal civil rights complaint the SPLC filed three years ago.

Florida’s Flagler County School Board adopted a wide-ranging plan today to eliminate racial disparities in school discipline – resolving a federal civil rights complaint the SPLC filed three years ago

Under a settlement agreement reached with the SPLC and unanimously passed by the school board, district approval will be required for suspensions of five or more days this upcoming school year, and for three or more days in the next school year. The district will consider abolishing suspensions once an alternative school program is created. The school district and law enforcement also will work to reduce in-school arrests for minor offenses.

As a result, the SPLC will withdraw the complaint it filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights in 2012. That complaint – one of five filed against Florida school districts that year – described discriminatory policies that resulted in African-American students accounting for 31 percent of all out-of-school suspensions during the 2010-11 school year even though they were only 16 percent of the student population. Flagler County is the first of the five districts to resolve an SPLC civil rights complaint.

“This is a great day for students and families in Flagler County,” said Amir Whitaker, SPLC staff attorney. “The Flagler County School Board has demonstrated with this agreement that it is committed to ensuring that no student is needlessly pushed out of school. We are excited to work with the schools and the district to introduce these new policies and improve education for Flagler’s 13,000 students.”

Schools are encouraged to consider alternatives to suspension and other harsh punishment under the agreement. Alternatives include peer mediation and an innovative restorative justice program. An existing committee that includes community members will be used to monitor discipline data and make recommendations to the district. It will hold quarterly public meetings to address district policies. 

Other provisions of the agreement include a continuation of the schools providing informational programs about the district’s code of conduct and discipline to all students; and adding information programs to apprise families on the district’s code of conduct and expectations for all students.  Regular discipline reports will also be made available to the community. School personnel will receive cultural competency and implicit bias training as well.

The SPLC is still pursuing federal civil rights complaints in Escambia, Bay, Okaloosa and Suwannee county school districts.