The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is investigating an Arizona school district’s newly adopted racial policy that purportedly calls for a “two-tiered form of student discipline: one for black and Hispanic students; one for everyone else,” according to a newspaper columnist.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne blasted the discipline plan Wednesday, according to the Arizona Daily Star. He admitted he hadn’t read the plan but called it “abhorrent,” warning that ethnicity should never be a consideration in disciplinary decisions.
TUSD Superintendent Elizabeth Celania-Fagen said Horne’s portrayal of the policy “is really not the truth.”
According to the report, the district is receiving dozens of angry e-mails from people across the nation.
The district has asked the Arizona Republic to retract the MacEachern’s characterization of the discipline policy.
MacEachern recently claimed his column prompted the federal government to look into the district policy.
“The legal office of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights told me Tuesday that it is looking into the district’s overly enthusiastic plan for lowering minority discipline reports, as a result of my Sunday column on the subject,” he wrote on AZ Central.
According to MacEachern’s original column, the board also created an “Equity Team” to ensure “a commitment to social justice for all students.”
However, school officials have refuted MacEachern’s description of the policy as “two-tiered” and argued that the new guidelines will only help correct racial inequalities that already exist in the system.
TUSD Governing Board member Adelita Grijalva told the Daily Star that MacEachern’s column was right in one aspect:
“Currently, we do have a two-tiered system,” she said. “If you look at children of color vs. Caucasian children, you will see that for the same kind of offenses, children of color are getting more severe consequences.”
The board’s report includes statistics that while American Indian students make up only 4 percent of the student body, they account for 20 percent of the suspensions across the district. And while black students only make up 7 percent of the student body, they account for 16.3 percent of out-of-school suspensions.
TUSD Assistant Superintendent Jim Fish told the Star that MacEachern had misunderstood what is meant by the board’s plan to adopt a more “restorative” culture and that seeing a two-tiered system of discipline in the policy is “far-fetched.”
[Ed. Note: Read the first article about TUSD’s race-based disciplinary policy here.]