To advocates for marginalized children in Clark County, the news of Vancouver Public Schools’ unbalanced discipline rates was bittersweet.
Vindicating, some said, but ultimately unsurprising.
The Washington Attorney General’s Office has ordered Clark County’s second largest school district to review its discipline policies after finding some students of color and disabled students are suspended or expelled at higher rates than their white and non-disabled peers. A yearlong investigation by the office found that students who are black, Native American, Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian, as well as those with disabilities, are disproportionately disciplined “at every stage in the process.” The office also found the district failed to review its disciplinary practices to determine whether the inequalities were a result of discrimination.
Still, district officials say they’re working to ease inequities in suspensions and expulsions, saying they’ve implemented new procedures that are less punitive.
“It’s not that we’ve ignored this problem,” district spokeswoman Pat Nuzzo said. “It’s something we’re committed to continue working on.”
Lynn Marzette, chair of the Legal Redress Committee for the Vancouver branch of the NAACP, said the organization has been looking at the issue of racial inequities in Vancouver Public Schools for some time now. He noted a couple of recent complaints from parents specifically about the way their children were disciplined, and said the NAACP wants to work with the district to ease the disparities.