State College schools change discipline practices after report shows unequal action against marginalized groups

Local News

CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — The State College Area School District is changing its discipline practices after the Pennsylvania Bureau of Special Education found the school disproportionately disciplined Black students receiving special education during the 2018-2019 school year.

Following the finding, the district says they’re deeply concerned and taking immediate action.

“We want to do right by all of our children, we want our children, all of our children, to be successful, especially students coming from our marginalized populations,” said Vernon Bock, assistant superintendent in the State College Area School District.

In a statement, district leaders said, “We would like to offer an apology to our Black community for these actions and make it clear that we will do everything in our power to address and fix these issues.”

The findings and action plans were presented in a recent school board meeting.

“We need to obviously notify the community and make pubic those findings,” said Bock. “And also to set aside a portion of our federal funding, special ed federal funding, to address those disproportionate areas, as well as put interventions in place, and so, we’re actively doing that.”

The school district has worked toward training administration in equity and inclusivity and are undergoing an external audit of policies.

Discipline, specifically suspension of all special education students, will now be reviewed by both the principal and assistant superintendent.

They’ve contracted mental health professionals of color and are actively working to diversify their classroom leaders.

“We want students to feel welcome, feel a part of our community, and to see themselves in the community,” said Bock. “We want all of those students, all of our students who come in, regardless of where they come from, regardless of their race, their ethnicity, their language spoken, we want them to come into school and have the same equal and equitable opportunities and access.”

They will revisit their strategic plan in the fall and adjust goals based on new findings. The district says they’ll be engaging with the community and encourage individuals to reach out if they’re interested in getting involved.

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