ISBE latest to tackle racial inequality

Local News
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ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The state has flagged five local school districts for racial inequality when it comes to discipline. Champaign, Danville, Georgetown, Westville and Hoopeston area made the list of 84 districts in the state.

The Illinois State Board of Education says districts on the list have disproportionately punished non-white students the past three years, not including 2017 – 2018. For example, those students have been suspended or expelled at much higher rates. It’s based on self-reported data from 2013 – 2016.

The Hoopeston area superintendent says the environment is based on mutual respect, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t room to improve.

He stated, in part:

During the 17 – 18 school year, we began a district wide focus on the incorporation of trauma-informed practices and will continue to study and apply this information as we look forward to the 18 – 19 school year.

Meanwhile, the director of achievement and students services for Champaign schools also says they’ve been focusing on making discipline fairer for the past two years.

“As a result of our efforts, we saw improvement reflected in the 2017 data, including a decrease in the number of suspensions (48%). However, more work is needed to improve racial disproportionately.”

Westville, Georgetown and Danville school officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

In October, the state will send out official notices. If  a district improved in the most recent school year, it would be off the list. If not, ISBE will work to help fix the problem. It’s the first year ISBE issued notices of inequality based on a new law. 

Statement from Hoopeston Area Superintendent, Suzzette Hesser:

At Hoopeston Area, our staff works collaboratively with each other, students families and the community to ensure that our students have a safe and secure learning environment that is based on mutual respect and positive relationships.  We have high academic and behavioral expectations while providing support in a systemic manner.  During the 17-18 school year, we began a district-wide focus on the incorporation of trauma-informed practices and will continue to study and apply this information as we look forward to the 18-19 school year.   

Statement from Champaign School District’s Director of Achievement and Student Services, Orlando Thomas:

The district is reviewing the discipline report we received from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) on June 28, 2018 to better understand the data analyzed and what it tells us. ISBE identified us as being in the top 20 percent for one or more exclusionary discipline metrics  for the 2014-2015, 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years.

We expect to receive another report by the end of October, notifying us if we are in the top 20 percent for 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 (using the most recent year of data). If we are in the top 20 percent at this time, we will be required to submit a plan identifying the strategies the school district will implement to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline practices or racial disproportionality. The details of those specific plan requirements are not known at this time.

For the last two years, Champaign Unit 4 School District has been focused on improving discipline practices and creating an equitable system that supports all students. As a result of our efforts we saw improvement reflected in the 2017 data including a decrease in number of suspensions (48 percent). However, more work is needed to improve racial disproportionality. 

Below are a few of our equity initiatives, focused on improving discipline metrics:  

  • District provided resources to school campuses with the goal to decrease disparity.
  • Implemented Restorative Practices (shift for punitive measures to restoring relationships and repairing harm). 
  • Second Step and Schools Connect:  SEL curriculum taught at each campus.
  • Positive Behavior Facilitation (PBF): Course to support and build capacity of administrators that promotes mindset and understanding of root causes of behavior. 
  • Trauma Informed Schools: All campuses will be trained on trauma and effects on students. 
  • Youth Mental Health First Aid: A course that provides an overview of signs/symptoms of mental health and an action plan to support students. 
  • Professional development offered district-wide focused on equity mindset and culture and climate. 
  • SB100 changes to Code of Conduct to eliminate zero tolerance, incorporate supports for students and teachers and clearly outline the discipline process for all. 
  • Implemented the Discipline Equity Advisory Committee comprised of teachers, school board members, parent and administrators to address the discipline disparity.
  • District involvement in community partnerships to best support students needs, including Champaign Community Coalition, Youth Assessment Center and Champaign Police Department and Lead for Life.

Creating an equitable discipline system continues to be important to us as we work to provide the best possible education to our students. Districts across the state are focused on the same work, and with the help of ISBE, we hope to continue moving in the right direction.

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