Civil rights workers weigh in on Flagler’s school district issues

Filed under FLGR-PALMCOAST

Flagler County Public Schools has failed to pull it together since forewarned in March at a NAACP meeting that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) would not wait too long before filing a complaint.

Flash forward: On July 24, the SPLC forwarded a letter to the federal Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The letter in essence was “a complaint filed against Flagler County School District on behalf of African-American students who have been or will be subjected to discriminatory disciplinary removal and disproportionate arrests while attending schools within the District.”

The scenario became the backdrop of a recent meeting of the Flagler County NAACP at the African American Cultural Society. The SPLC was invited to return with an update on what had transpired.

Stephanie Langer is an attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center and Keyontay Humphries is the Community Youth Advocate. They work out of the Miami office of the Montgomery, Ala.-based civil rights organization.

Attorney Stephanie Langer asserted that the findings to the OCR were based on numbers reported to the state by the district for the academic year 2010-11.

“We took those numbers and said there is a problem. We have about a 16 percent population of African-American students out of the total school population,” said Langer, “and out of that, we have about 35 percent being arrested from school. You have 35 percent being suspended from school and 33 percent being expelled from school. So your kids are being expelled and pushed out of school,” recounted the attorney.

African-American students make up 69 percent of those expelled. They’re penalized for relatively minor and non-violent conduct. Complaints impacting the disciplinary policies were cited by the SPLC for four other school districts – Escambia, Okaloosa, Bay, and Suwannee. The Flagler County NAACP factored in the complaint when the SPLC called upon the NAACP Washington Bureau. Jerusha Logan is the chairman for the branch on education.

From students to hiring practices
The OCR opened an investigation and will ask the Flagler School District to respond and provide documents, and to take part in a resolution, much like mediation.

“Our ultimate goal is actually to get them to come to the table, which they haven’t done yet,” said Langer.

SPLC Community Youth
Advocate Keyontay Hum-phries reiterated to continue to update her on whether students are still being suspended so information can go up the pipeline to the OCR, letting them know that the problem has yet to be fixed.

Humphries made clear “…when you teach the administrators about cultural differences, when you teach them about how to support kids with positive behavior in the beginning, instead of always being critical of them after it actually happens, all of these things are areas and models that this community – thanks to the NAACP – is aware of.”

Moreover, the complaint resonates on hiring Black staff members for Flagler County, said Branch President Linda Sharpe Haywood. The hiring practices are atrocious, and they complain there are budget cuts, and so they’re hiring from within, and you’re not getting the desired results, or the required results.

Black teachers total about 2 percent for elementary school, 4 percent for middle and high school, 15 percent for principals, and 25 percent for assistant principals for the academic year 2011-2012.

“They wouldn’t even allow our kids to have a “Black History Month,” interjected Haywood.

“It became ‘Who’s Who in American History’…it’s bad enough you know that the history books do not tell the story of this country appropriately and truthfully, but to take away the ability for those of us who educate the children, and go into the school system during what should have been a ‘Black History’ program, I think was just unacceptable, and I’m going to make sure that it does not happen again…”

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