State data shows black students with disabilities treated differently in Collierville schools

Data pix.

COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — African-American students with disabilities were being disciplined in Collierville Schools more often than white students, according to state data from the past three school years.

Federal law requires states to monitor the number of students identified as having a disability, where they are placed in schools and how often they are suspended or expelled, and to determine whether that number is out of proportion based on race or ethnicity.

A review of the numbers in Collierville schools found “significant disproportionality” for African-American students with disabilities compared to a larger group of white students with disabilities, the district said.

Collierville Schools said it is reviewing the numbers for accuracy, but it could mean the district will redirect up to $275,000 to provide comprehensive coordinated early intervening services.

"We continue to monitor and adjust our disciplinary practices as part of our ongoing effort to provide equitable opportunities for all students in Collierville Schools," the district said in a statement.

“I think that is very, very alarming just as much as if it was just purely a racial issue,” said Pastor Linwood Dillard, a Collierville Schools parent. “It’s 2019 and what more will it take before someone says, ‘Let’s address this big elephant in the room and let’s deal with it head on.’"

Dillard said it hit home with his family, after his daughter found the “n-word” written on her desk at Collierville High one day last year.

A year before that, a racial slur was left on a car outside the old Collierville High School.

Dillard wasn’t pleased with how the district handled those incidents, saying no real action was taken.

“That’s why we’ve really been pushing for some type of awareness or training or sessions for students and faculty,” Dillard said. “How many more students are subjected to various things we’re not aware of and they think this is the norm? Or they think it will just get swept under the rug?"

A change in the way the state calculates that data may have led to more Tennessee districts being identified, Collierville Schools said. The district said it is appealing.

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