Anti-bias proposal adopted

December 17, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County school officials have agreed to a 16-point plan designed to keep race from being a factor in student discipline cases.

The settlement, which is to be released today, brings to a close a complaint filed two years ago with federal officials that black students in county schools were disciplined more harshly than their white counterparts.

The Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education didn't say race was a factor in the discipline cases, but neither did it rule it out, said Carl O. Snowden, an Annapolis alderman who is on the board of directors of the tenants organization that filed the complaint.

The Anne Arundel County Coalition of Tenants filed the complaint in January 1991 after photographs of black lynching victims were hung in the halls of Glen Burnie High School following a student fight.

"Even the school system acknowledged there were disproportionately more black students being expelled or suspended," Mr. Snowden said.

"The question was, why was that happening? Were black students being more disruptive, or did race have a factor?" he said. "The Office of Civil Rights did not find [the treatment] was racially motivated, but it's clear by these agreements that it did not rule out race as a factor."

The 16-point set of "assurances" signed Dec. 3 by acting Superintendent Carol S. Parham requires all employees involved in student discipline to receive "cultural sensitivity" training by June 1.

Dr. Parham could not be reached for comment.

The document also calls for:

* Establishing a parents committee that reflects the school's racial makeup to review student transfers, suspension extensions, expulsions and the placement of students in alternative settings, such as the behavioral modification program.

* The committee will review data on disciplinary actions taken at Glen Burnie High School between 1990 and 1993 to determine whether discrimination took place.

* By September 1994, all student handbooks and other publications will contain a notice of nondiscrimination.

* Course selection for junior and senior high school students will be changed to allow the students and their parents to choose what academic classes they will take. AACCT had complained that black students were being placed in classes below their academic capabilities.

Complaints from parents of Glen Burnie High, Old Mill High and Annapolis High students, and other community residents led the tenants coalition to file the complaint.

Mr. Snowden praised the Board of Education for avoiding a "protracted, long battle with the Office for Civil Rights."

Twenty years ago, a group of black parents filed a similar complaint with federal officials.

"That complaint took four years to resolve, and the Office for Civil Rights had to go to court to get the county school system to comply with the remedies it put forward," he said.

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