Decatur Schools parents want action on equity disparities with black students

A group of concerned parent, students and community members crowded the City Schools of Decatur board room Tuesday night to demand that the district develop a plan to address education and discipline disparities for black students.

The Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, a recently established advocacy group, said in a letter addressed to district officials that the district's Equity Report, presented during the district's August school board meeting, doesn't address concerns with implicit bias, discrimination and closing the achievement gap between the district's black and white students.

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Mawuli Davis, an attorney and co-chairman of the Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights, said Superintendent David Dude presented the disparities, but never addressed them.

“We applaud him for his courage bringing forth this information,” Davis said. “That was over two years ago. There have been some efforts to address the discipline disparities as well as the achievement gap, but nothing that has moved the needle. And that’s what we are here to do -- to ensure our demands are met in the next 30 days and that we see a change immediately for our young people.”

Among other things in the report, during the 2015-16 school year, black students represented 23.2 percent of the student body, but received 73.9 percent of rude/disorderly conduct citations. Between the fall of 2013 and the fall of 2017, black elementary school students performed, on average, 20 percentage points lower than their white peers.

Among the demands are an immediate end to out-of-school suspensions, effective Oct. 1, for students from kindergarten through fifth grade, establishing a grievance process “with procedures for students and parents to address teacher and administrator discrimination,” establishment of a district equity plan and that evaluations rate a staff member’s cultural competence.