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DOJ Settlement with Wichita Public Schools Over Discriminatory Discipline Practices

In a recent development, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has reached a settlement with Wichita Public Schools following an investigation that uncovered discriminatory disciplinary practices against black and disabled students. The findings revealed systemic issues in how the district managed discipline, leading to severe repercussions for these groups.

Findings of Discrimination

Below is a summary of the findings by the DOJ.

The DOJ’s investigation into Wichita Public Schools, the largest district in Kansas, highlighted significant disparities in the treatment of black and disabled students compared to their white and non-disabled peers.

  • Frequent and Severe Discipline: Black students were subjected to more frequent and severe disciplinary actions for similar offenses compared to white students. This discrepancy was particularly evident in cases involving subjective offenses such as insubordination.
  • Disproportionate Impact on Black Girls: Black girls faced harsher punishments often described using stereotypical and pejorative terms like “attitude” or “drama,” reflecting a biased perception of their behavior.
  • Inappropriate Use of Seclusion and Restraint: Students with disabilities were repeatedly secluded and restrained inappropriately. These practices not only violated their rights, according to the DOJ, but also failed to provide the necessary support for their educational needs.
  • Inferior Facilities for Disabled Students: Students with significant behavioral needs were often placed in inadequate facilities, lacking proper services and support, further disadvantaging their educational opportunities.
  • Discriminatory Law Enforcement Referrals: The investigation found that Black students were disproportionately referred to law enforcement for routine or minor misbehavior, leading to criminalization of school discipline.
  • Escalation by School Security: Security officers frequently escalated routine disciplinary matters, resulting in law enforcement involvement, which further contributed to the school-to-prison pipeline.

High Incidence of Restraint and Seclusion

The statistics from the investigation were particularly alarming regarding the use of restraint and seclusion:

  • Overwhelming Impact on Disabled Students: Students with disabilities accounted for over 98% of approximately 3,000 restraint and seclusion incidents.
  • Repeated Incidents: A significant number of students experienced repeated restraints and seclusions, with 44 students subjected to 20 or more incidents. In one extreme case, a student endured 144 incidents, highlighting a severe misuse of these practices.

Settlement Agreement Requirements

The settlement agreement between the DOJ and Wichita Public Schools outlines several measures to address these discriminatory practices and ensure a safer, more equitable educational environment:

  • Development of a District-wide Code of Conduct: The district is required to create a standardized code of conduct and dress code policies to ensure consistency and fairness in disciplinary actions.
  • Behavior Intervention Protocols: New protocols must be established to ensure nondiscriminatory discipline and reduce unnecessary exclusions, ensuring all students receive fair treatment.
  • District-level Monitoring: The district must implement monitoring mechanisms to oversee disciplinary practices and ensure compliance with nondiscrimination policies.
  • Appropriate Law Enforcement Involvement: Measures will be taken to ensure security and law enforcement are appropriately involved, preventing the criminalization of routine disciplinary matters.
  • Elimination of Seclusion: The use of seclusion as a disciplinary measure will be completely abolished.
  • Restraint Practices: The use of restraints will be restricted to cases of imminent danger, with detailed documentation of incidents and necessary interventions provided to affected students.
  • Staffing of Specialized Schools: The district must ensure that specialized schools for students with disabilities are staffed with qualified professionals to provide appropriate support and services.
  • Support for Affected Students: Counseling and compensatory education will be provided to students who were repeatedly secluded, addressing the educational and emotional harm caused.
  • Establishment of an Oversight Office: An office will be established to monitor compliance with the settlement agreement and assist staff with required interventions and supports.

Statements from DOJ Officials

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke emphasized the urgency of ending discriminatory practices in schools to protect vulnerable students from fear and mistrust. She highlighted the critical need to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, ensuring that all students have access to a safe and supportive educational environment.

For more details, you can refer to the DOJ letter here.  


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The MEN was founded by John Huber in the fall of 2020. It was founded to provide a platform for expert opinion and commentary on current issues that directly or indirectly affect education. All opinions are valued and accepted providing they are expressed in a professional manner. The Maryland Education Network consists of Blogs, Videos, and other interaction among the K-12 community.