Black Female Superintendent Makes Bold Move: Minneapolis Schools Now Need Permission to Suspend Black Students

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school superintendent Bernadeia Johnson
school superintendent Bernadeia Johnson

In an effort to understand why students of color in the Minneapolis school system are 10 times more likely to receive a suspension than white students, school superintendent Bernadeia Johnson enacted a new policy where every non-violent suspension of a Black, Hispanic, or American Indian student will now be reviewed by her office before they are 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 statement on Friday.

The Minneapolis school system has more than 32,000 students and 70 percent of them are non-white.

The new policy is the result of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Education, which had been investigating the district’s lopsided suspension rate. In the last school year, suspensions for students in kindergarten through fourth grade increased by 32 percent.

Johnson attempted to address the suspension issue earlier this year by placing a moratorium on suspensions of students in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade, according to the Star Tribune.

As part of the settlement, the district will be required to report its progress on reducing suspensions for students of color to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The district must also increase staff, create a better data system, clearly define its suspension policy and increase student and community engagement.

Minneapolis isn’t the only city where African-American students are suspended at a higher rate. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights found that Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students.  Black girls are suspended at higher rates than girls of any other race or ethnicity. Black students have the highest out-of-school suspension rate for boys and girls at 20 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

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