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In the States: Spotlight on Discriminatory Practices and Teacher Shortage

The new “In the States” feature by Kaitlyn Brennan is a weekly update to keep members informed on state-level activities impacting the education and educator preparation community.

Arizona: Peoria Unified School District to Remedy Discriminatory Harassment of Students

This week, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced the resolution of a complaint of racial harassment filed against Peoria Unified School District in Arizona. Following an investigation, OCR determined that the district failed to address harassment of students on the basis of race, color, and national origin, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations.

The Department noted “…persistent, pervasive, and severe harassment and the district’s ineffective response caused significant and enduring academic, social, and emotional harm…Moreover, OCR found that a schoolwide hostile environment existed because at least a dozen other students of color at the school were likewise harassed based on race, color, or national origin by numerous peers.”

In a statement, Assistant secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon said: “Every student in every school deserves to learn free from discriminatory harassment… Peoria Unified School District today commits to come into compliance with longstanding federal civil rights requirements, ensuring that district students learn without discrimination based on race or national origin.”

In a press release, the Department announced that the district’s commitments in the voluntary resolution agreement include:

  • Providing supports and remedies, where appropriate, to students who were subjected to peer harassment based on race, color, or national origin at the school.
  • Conducting a climate assessment that examines the prevalence of harassment at the school, the hostile environment created by the widespread harassment, the school’s and district’s handling of reports of harassment, and measures for reducing harassment at the school and for improving the district’s response to reports of harassment.
  • Issuing an anti-harassment statement and issuing a notice to parents about identifying and reporting harassment and about how the district is expected to respond.
  • Reviewing, revising, and disseminating policies, forms, and record-keeping procedures related to harassment based on race, color, and national origin.
  • Training staff about legal requirements under Title VI, reporting and responding to harassment, prohibited retaliation, cultural competency, and implicit bias. And,
  • Providing developmentally appropriate educational programs about how to recognize and report racial harassment for school students.

The letter to Peoria Unified School District is available online as well as the resolution agreement.

Shortage Showcase: North Carolina Teacher Shortage

According to data from the North Carolina School Superintendents’ Association (NCSSA), North Carolina’s public schools started the year with at least 4,469 teacher vacancies. The same NCSSA survey reports that the number of teachers on provisional emergency licenses has nearly doubled, increasing from 1,942 to 3,618. North Carolina’s Justice Center’s Education and Law Project highlighted decisions from the North Carolina state General Assembly as one of the primary causes of the shortage — specifically noting that the state’s “attack” on educators is reflected in teacher salaries across the state. As reported in NC Policy Watch, North Carolina teachers’ salaries are 19% below the national average.

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