An Aberdeen-based African-American advocacy organization alleges that black students in the Harford County public school system are discriminated against in the way they are punished for school offenses.
"We see a trend, over the past two years, that black and white students are not treated the same," said Tandra Ridgley, a co-founder of GrassRoots Steering Foundation Inc. "Black students are suspended more often, for longer periods and for more offenses than their white counterparts."
The organization said it will file tomorrow complaints alleging discrimination with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Ridgley said about 25 complaints will be filed on behalf of parents of students in public schools.
Donald R. Morrison, a spokesman for the school system, said he has not seen the complaints and could not comment.
Ridgely said blacks make up 12 percent of Harford County students and account for 35 percent of the suspensions and expulsions.
Ridgley expressed hope that the filings would lead to a federal investigation.
"I want to know the truth," she said. "I want to know if our children are really that bad or is this is a cultural thing that causes black students to be scrutinized more. Are black students being penalized more because teachers don't know how to teach them or don't know how to relate to them? That may be it.
"Maybe it is a lack of parental involvement. It may be some of both."
Ridgley said the school system seems to have less tolerance in dealing with black students.