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Justice Dept. reaches agreement with Ark. district to prevent discipline discrimination

Watson Chapel High School (KATV Photo)
Watson Chapel High School (KATV Photo)
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The U.S. Department of Justice reached an agreement with the Watson Chapel School District to prevent the district from discriminating on the basis of race when it comes to school discipline.

The District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas approved the consent order, which aims to "replace the use of punitive discipline with more positive approaches as part of an overall focus on improving student achievement and school climate," according to a release from the Justice Department.

This order is set to address any remaining issues from a school desegregation case in Watson Chapel, and will close that case after being fully implemented, with the Justice Department set to monitor the district's compliance of the order.

As part of the consent order, the district will be required to:

  • Implement a classroom management system that focuses on interventions and supports
  • Eliminate out-of-school suspensions for offenses that do not involve or threaten safety
  • Stop the use of corporal punishment, which has been disproportionately applied against black students and undermined the creation of a positive school climate
  • Assess the district’s support services for students with disabilities to ensure that students, particularly students of color, are not disciplined for their disabilities
  • Enter into an agreement with the law enforcement agencies that provide School Resource Officers (SROs) to the district that makes clear that SROs will not become involved in enforcing school discipline rules and prevents students from being arrested for minor misconduct
  • Conduct outreach to students, parents and community members to explain and solicit feedback on the district’s disciplinary policies and procedures
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“For far too long, some school districts have used overly punitive and ineffective discipline practices that prevent students of color from reaching their full potential,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We commend the Watson Chapel School District for committing to create an equal, supportive and inclusive learning environment for all.”

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