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Parents, community organizers, district staff members and other leaders spoke passionately about the need to pass -- and to fully realize -- the plan, and to involve students, families and teachers in the push for change.
"We're here today to ante up and reclaim our children," said Chris Chatmon, director of the district's African American Male Achievement initiative.
Chatmon said the resolution will give the system the sense of urgency needed to change the status quo. He said that while African-American students made up 32 percent of OUSD's enrollment during the last school year, they received 63 percent of all suspensions.
This spring, the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights began to investigate whether the school district treated black students more harshly than white students. Now that the board has approved the resolution, that investigation will come to a halt.
Arthur Zeidman, who directs the San Francisco field office for the Office for Civil Rights, came to the school board meeting. He stressed that while the agreement was binding, it would be a cooperative relationship. He said the office pursued a resolution with Oakland because "there was work to be done in Oakland, and Oakland was willing to do it."
The department, he said, wanted "to put our resources toward a project that could result in real change."
The five-year plan, which builds on ongoing programs such as restorative justice, focuses initially on 38 of the district's 86 schools. Its goals include an overall reduction in out-of-school suspensions, as well as the suspensions of African-American and special education students, who are far more likely to be sent home from school than their peers.
SOURCE: Katy Murphy