The Minneapolis public school system announced a major new district-wide policy for disciplining students: any suspension of a non-white student requires the district superintendent’s approval.
The MPS has been stung by reports that students of color are 10 times more likely to receive a suspension than white students. The Minneapolis school system has an enrollment of over 32,000 students. Seventy percent are non-white.
School superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, a black woman, maintains that she wants to “disrupt” the current suspension trends.
Superintendent Johnson says that her new policy is aimed at forcing local school administrators to deeply “probe” the reasons for issuing a suspension before that punishment is handed out.
Johnson claims that suspensions meted out to minority students were all too often based on behavior that would not have led to a suspension for a white student.
So, starting on Monday, November 10, every suspension of a black, Hispanic or American Indian student that does not involve violent behavior will be reviewed by Johnson’s office before being approved.
“Changing the trajectory for our students of color is a moral and ethical imperative, and our actions must be drastically different to achieve our goal of closing the achievement gap by 2020,” Johnson said in a November 7 statement announcing the policy change.
This policy is coupled with a reduced police presence in the city’s schools.
The policy is also part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Education for the district’s lopsided suspension rate.
The changes come after a review of suspensions made during the 2012-13 school year found a jump in suspensions for student in grades K through 4 even in the midst of questions that were already being asked by the federal government.
This and previous suspension rates brought an investigation by civil rights investigators from the Department of Education in 2013. The federal probe reviewed the records of 11 district schools.
Like in almost all U.S. cities, Minneapolis has a problem with its minority student graduation rate. But in 2013 overall graduation rates rose to 79 percent over the previous year’s 72 percent. Early this year, the city issued statistics showing that 85 percent of white students graduated in 2013. Only 56 percent of black students and 58 percent of Hispanic students graduated in 2013.
Minneapolis is still doing better than some major Midwestern metropolises. Chicago, for instance, recently celebrated a 17-point rise in graduation rates for 2013 but that still left the city’s graduation rate at only 65.4 percent (up from a mere 58.3 percent for the 2011-2012 school year).
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter: @warnerthuston. Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.