Pittsburg Unified sued for alleged disciplinary practices, poor academic performance for black, English and disabled students
Lawsuit filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court names State Board of Education, State Superintendent of Public Education Tony Thurmond, State of California and Pittsburg Unified School District .
The record claims that black, English-speaking and disabled students have been denied constitutional rights to public education.
RELATED: How Excessive School Discipline Against Black Girls Leads To Dropping Out, To Incarceration
The Northern California ACLU, Southern California ACLU, and the Disability Education and Advocacy Fund represent two students, two parents of alumni, and one current teacher.
ABC7 News first reported excessive disciplinary practices in February, sharing stories from one of the families featured, student Lanyiah Green and her mother Jessica Black.
âNo one ever took the time to really know who I am. They just pushed me out without even trying to understand me,â Green said.
Green was suspended dozens of times during her time in elementary and middle school. In seventh grade, she was forced to leave traditional classrooms and attend an independent education program.
The program is isolated, without interaction with other students and with limited weekly instruction.
VIDEO: 18 times more likely to be suspended: Bay Area schools grapple with excessive discipline
The suspensions started in grade three for typical childish behavior with up to 23 suspensions in a year, Green’s mother said.
âMy 11-year-old daughter was 5,150 and was sent to a mental health unit which traumatized her even more,â Black said.
Now, Black and her daughter are among the families represented in the lawsuit against her former school district and public education leaders.
“We want them to completely revamp their disciplinary and special education system,” said Malhar Shah, one of the lawyers working on the case for the DREDF.
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The lawsuit alleges that Pittsburg Unified has a discriminatory discipline system, has failed to provide equitable education to all students, regardless of ability, and the district overidentifies black and English learners as having a disability.
âThe school district and the state are depriving students of their basic right to education,â Shah said.
Analysis of ABC7 News data from our previous report shows that Pittsburg Unified has the highest suspension rate for black students in the Bay Area and that black girls in grades 7 and 8 were 14 times more likely to ‘be suspended as this year’s white girls within the district, according to 2018-19 data from the California Department of Education.
âIt’s the racist practices that occur that cause students to come out,â Black said.
Pittsburg Unified School District Superintendent Janet Schulze EdD provided ABC7 News with the following statement in response to the lawsuit:
“Our district is committed to providing every scholar with equitable access to education, and while we have improved a lot over the years to address the gaps in access and opportunities for students, our important work continues because in our district, like so many others in our state and nation, gaps persist.
The lawsuit brought by the ACLU is disappointing because fundamentally we share the same priorities, which is to ensure that all children, especially students of color, our English learners and students with disabilities receive an education. quality. It is important to note that we will not let this lawsuit distract from the important efforts of our district and our staff to continue to identify and correct the disparities. As the attorneys deal with this situation, I am confident that the facts of the situation will rectify the many misleading comments in the ACLU statement, and I am also confident that the dedicated professionals in our district will not let this be theirs. dissuade focusing on the needs of our students, our academics, who are at the heart of their work every day. “
RELATED: Bay Area School District Struggles With Learning Loss Among Students Of Color And Low-Income Households
As for Green, her mother took her out of Pittsburg schools and sent her to live with parents out of state in the hopes of having a chance for a fair education and a better future.
âShe deserves to have an opportunity. She deserves to be able to dream, live and make these dreams come true,â Black said.
ABC7 News has contacted the California Board of Education, the California Department of Education and State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond for comment and a spokesperson said they have yet to receive the lawsuit and that “although we cannot comment on the lawsuit, I can say that State Superintendent Thurmond and the CDE have championed equitable access to educational resources for all students and the reduction of opportunities for students of color, students with disabilities, English learners and others. “
The issue of excessive discipline is not confined to the Pittsburg Unified Schools.
Students in the Black and Latino Bay area are much more likely to be suspended and miss crucial classroom instruction compared to their White and Asian classmates, analysis by ABC7 News data team found.
A black student is 18 times more likely to be suspended in San Francisco Unified.
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