Fort Bend Independent School District (ISD) has a horrible record when it comes to failing and overly punishing our black students. According to a six-year study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR), black students in Fort Bend ISD were six times more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions than white students and four times as likely to be placed on in-school suspension.
There are many reasons all parents in Fort Bend ISD should oppose black students being discriminated against, marginalized and excessively punished. This disparity in discipline results in these students receiving less instructional time, which is a catalyst to low academic performance and an entry into the school-to-prison pipeline that pushes students out of school. Additionally, it increases the academic gap and impedes the district’s ability to effectively compete locally, nationally and globally.
As much as I appreciated Superintendent Dr. Charles Dupre acknowledging that racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem nationally, I’m more pleased to hear that he is working to address it by moving away from heavy reliance on exclusionary discipline, suspension or expulsion, in Fort Bend ISD.
As a black mother and community activist who not only fought for my two children to successfully graduate from the district, but also for others students to be treated respectful and fairly; I know how difficult it is for black parents to get their children through school without them being destroyed by the same system that is charged with the responsibility of educating them.
That’s why I’m calling on the superintendent, school board members, educators, administrators and counselors to eradicate the racially driven punishment disparity by making policy change a major priority. The students of Fort Bend ISD schools along with parents deserve equitable, systemic practices in the disciplinary process.
While parents are preparing for their children to return to school by buying school clothes and supplies, I’m urging black parents to be proactive in preventing their children from becoming another disciplinary statistic.
10 Back-to-School Assignments for Parents
- Read the parent/student handbook that includes the school code of conduct and make sure your child knows and follows them. For an even playing field, make sure that your child’s educator is following the rules and guidelines and applying them in a fair, equitable manner when administrating discipline to your child.
- Don’t allow your child to make an oral or written statement regarding a disciplinary investigation without your presence and approval.
- Don’t allow your child to sign any written statement without your permission and presence.
- For your child’s school record, submit a letter to the principal, area superintendent and the superintendent of schools at the beginning of the school year notifying them that your child is not to be questioned about a disciplinary issue without your presence or permission.
- Don’t attend a disciplinary action meeting without a witness or recording it.
- Make sure you get all the facts from your child and conduct your own investigation.
- Create a file with all notes from the teacher/principal and teacher conference meetings.
- During the teacher/parent conference, ask the teacher specific questions about your child’s conduct, progress and academic struggles, and what you need to do to assist him or her.
- Develop a parent co-op group where parents help each other to effectively navigate through the school and the State Board of Certified Educators (SBEC) complaint process.
- Become and stay proactively engaged in your child’s education.
For learning to properly occur, the school environment must be safe and conducive to teaching and learning. Therefore, advocate for your child to be allowed to grow as a child and learn how to behave appropriately without being criminally labeled. Although school disciplinary records are required to be kept confidential, they could still influence a court’s decision, show up on a background check or be subjected to disclosure on job, college or military applications.
In an effort to bring about policy change and promote transparency while supporting our children, please report any suspicious disciplinary action against a child to: firstname.lastname@example.org. This information will be used to track, monitor, research and develop a parent/community report card to uncover these disparities. The information will expose schools that use abusive disciplinary tactics, so that parents can make an informed decision about which schools are a better fit for their children.
Working together, we will mobilize grassroots action to bring about change. However, in order for others to stand with us in our efforts to save our children – we must take the first stand.
Tammie Lang Campbell is a revered activist who made a quantum leap from rural Mississippi to become a nationally recognized civil rights leader and founder of the Honey Brown Hope Foundation. In a climate where the marginalized are left feeling hopeless by the bitterness of social and environmental injustices, The Honey Brown Hope Foundation focuses on the best way to help people — give them hope. Founded in 1991, the organization is a nationally recognized, award-winning 501(c) 3 non-profit that contagiously spread hope through educational, engaging and informative programs that align with its causes — diversity appreciation, environmental stewardship and civil rights.