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Lawsuit Holds Texas School District Accountable for Disproportionately Suspending African American Students

Lawsuit Holds Texas School District Accountable for Disproportionately Suspending African American Students

The family of the high school boy, Ahmed Mohamed, who was suspended for bringing a homemade clock to school as it was mistaken for a hoax bomb has officially filed a lawsuit against the Irving Independent School District.

Specifically, part of the complaint alleges that the school district intentionally discriminates against African American students by disproportionately suspending them. The complaint points to data from 2007 to 2014 that substantiates its claims.

“There is no explanation why the district has taken no steps to address the continuing disparity between discipline for white children versus discipline for black/African American children. … The rates of discipline remain approximately double even after years of knowledge of the disparity by the IISD. The district has done nothing meaningful to address the disparity or correct the inequality.”

This suit represents one of the first times a school district could face legal ramifications for disproportionately suspending students based on race.

Disproportionate suspensions are not unique to IISD, of course. Many school districts across the country have been found to be guilty of similar disciplinary patterns, a reason why many officials are actively attempting to reduce suspensions and expulsions in general.

Districts, including large ones like the Los Angeles Unified School District, have taken steps to reduce suspensions for non-violent crimes in favor of restorative justice approaches. In New York, the country’s largest school district, Mayor de Blasio recently announced his plan to ban suspensions for the city’s K-2 students all together.

According to The Washington Post, a spokesperson for IISD reiterated that the district denies violating Mohamed’s civil rights.

“As with any legal matter of this nature, attorneys for the school district will review the filing and respond as appropriate. Irving ISD continues to deny violating the student’s rights and will respond to claims in accordance with court rules. Because this matter is now in litigation, Irving ISD officials will have no further comment at this time,” she said.

Only time will tell how a jury will decide.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

8/17/2016

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