Pinellas school board supports agreement on black student discipline
The Pinellas school board left no doubt today that it backs a proposed legal agreement that supporters say will change how the district deals with black student discipline.
At issue is a proposed "memorandum of understanding" that was reached last month by both sides in the district's long-running desegregation case. Both the district and the plaintiffs' representatives in Bradley vs. the Pinellas County School Board say the agreement will compel the district to chip away at behaviors and practices that have led it to suspend black students at far higher rates than students of other races. (More about it in this St. Petersburg Times story here.)
"What is really significant to me is that it reflects what really is news, which is that we are working together," Roger Plata, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, told the school board during today's workshop.
"We're very pleased with this, too," said board chair Janet Clark. "It's taken us a long time to move forward, but we finally are."
The board is scheduled to vote on the MOU in June.
The draft requires each school to consider discipline data for black students relative to students of other races, and to use strategies that will improve discipline for all students, including black students. A big component is more training for principals and teachers in research-based discipline programs that affect all students.
The seven-page draft also emphasizes that improving behavior is not the responsibility of schools alone. The goals "require efforts from the district, students, parents and the community." But former St. Petersburg deputy mayor and police chief Goliath Davis, who's working with the plaintiffs, stressed the district piece today.
"We can't give up on the kid because the kid got a bad draw as a parent," said Davis, now the city's senior administrator of community enrichment. "We still have the responsibility to do all that we can for that kid."