In a recent article, it is reported that the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights is investigating a civil rights complaint regarding the Oklahoma City Public School teachers and school district. Superintendent Rob Neu reported to the school board that there are three civil rights complaints against the school district. The superintendent went on to say that “if we do not intervene and do something now, then we know their pathway”.

The three civil rights complaints include failing to provide equal opportunities to male and female high school students, discrimination against Blacks and Hispanics with disabilities, and individual retaliation and discrimination against Black and Hispanic students in the area of discipline.

The first challenge of providing equal opportunities to male and female high school students involve Title IX. According to Title IX, No person in the United States shall, on the basis of gender, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. Title IX compliance can be determined in one of three of the following ways:

  1. Providing athletic participation opportunities that are substantially proportionate to the student enrollment. This prong of the test is satisfied when participation opportunities for men and women are “substantially proportionate” to their respective undergraduate enrollment.
  2. Demonstrating a continual expansion of athletic opportunities for the underrepresented sex. This prong of the test is satisfied when an institution has a history and continuing practice of program expansion that is responsive to the developing interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex (typically female).
  3. Accommodating the interest and ability of underrepresented sex. This prong of the test is satisfied when an institution is meeting the interests and abilities of its female students even where there are disproportionately fewer females than males participating in sports.

Even though the athletic directors in the Oklahoma will be responsible for adhering to compliance regarding the civil rights complaint, teachers can help by recommending future plans as well as assisting by becoming coaches for each needed event. I remember as a former basketball and softball coach for a junior high school in Washington, DC, the athletic director went overboard in purchasing items for the girls because the imbalance came form girls not participating on the football team. Therefore on paper it looked like they were spending more money on the boy’s.

The second civil rights complaint is discrimination against Blacks and Hispanics with disabilities. The school district will have to investigate the different placement options for Black and Hispanics and compare it to children of other ethnicities.

Teachers play an integral role in the placement of students classified as special education. The best way to protect yourself from civil rights complaints is to:  

  • Document all classroom strategies that you implement for students before they are recommended for special education services.
  • Make sure that your recommendations are objective and not subjective. In many cases, when Black and Hispanic students have difficulty with teachers, the teacher will base their opinions on the basis of differences in verbal and non verbal behavior and not academic challenges.
  • Implement strategies recommended by special education teachers
  • Do not become frustrated with the students if the strategy does not work

The final civil rights complaint is individual retaliation and discrimination against Black and Hispanic students in the area of discipline. The area of discipline has long been a challenge for Hispanic and Black students. According to the United States Office of Education Department of Civil Rights, discipline problems for Black and Hispanic children begin in pre school. Black students represent 18% of the students attending pre school but represent 48% of the out of school suspensions. White students represent 43% of pre school students while only representing 26% of the out of school suspensions. On average Black students are three times more likely to be suspended from school when compared to White students. It was found that 5% of White students are suspended while 16% of Black students are suspended.

Black students are more likely to be arrested or referred to law enforcement when compared to White students. Black students represent 16% of the student population while representing 27% of the students referred to law enforcement and 31% are likely to be arrested for school related events. White students represent 51% of the student population while representing 41% of the students referred to law enforcement and only 39% are likely to be arrested.

Since at least 75% of student referrals for discipline are submitted by teachers, teachers will have to do a better job at validating their discipline referrals. The following will help teachers to protect themselves.

  • Allow students to develop classroom rules and violation consequences
  • Implement a progressive system of discipline
  • Make rules and progressive system of discipline publicly available for all students and adults
  • Make sure that recommended consequences are objective and not subjective
  • Quarterly review you quantity of discipline referrals to ensure that the strategies that arte in place benefit the academic atmosphere of your classroom

The above mentioned three strategies to guard against civil rights complaints will help teacher to continue to help students to achieve academically.

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012


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