WASHINGTON, DC (March 24, 2020) – The national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) has submitted a letter to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, asking her to investigate school practices that may include the unfair discipline of Black students with disabilities and segregative assignments to schools for those students. The Lawyers’ Committee has also asked Secretary Bunting to look into the possible over-identification of Black students for special education.
On March 9, 2020, the Lawyers’ Committee sent Secretary Bunting a letter following the organization’s review of statewide and school-based data related to Black students with disabilities. In the letter, the Lawyers’ Committee cites alarming trends, including the following:
- 24% of Black male students with disabilities were subjected to out-of-school suspensions compared to 9% of White male students with disabilities.
- 14% of Black female students with disabilities were subjected to out-of-school suspensions compared to 4% for White female students with disabilities.
- Black students constitute 31% of total enrollment but 39% of students with disabilities; White students constitute 48% of total enrollment but 43% of students with disabilities.
- Out of approximately 109 nonspecialized schools in the OCR database, 38 schools identify more than 25% of Black students as IDEA students, compared to a statewide rate of 15%.
“Black students with disabilities are talented and hold such promise yet they are also among the most vulnerable to discrimination” said David Hinojosa, the Director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the Lawyers’ Committee. “These disturbing facts should compel the Secretary to launch an investigation into the root causes for these troubling outcomes.”
The letter also references a case, Coalition for Education Reform v. Indian River School District, where the plaintiffs alleged that the district’s George Washington Carver Academy had operated as an alternative setting with deplorable learning conditions primarily for Black males ages 3 to 18 over a 20-year period. The case settled in 2019.
The Lawyers’ Committee has asked Secretary Bunting to respond to its concerns within 30 days so that it may share with community partners.
The March 9 letter to Secretary Bunting can be found here.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 56th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.