District to reduce suspension disparities

Park to resolve discrimination charges


Grace Farley

Minnesota Department of Human Rights reached an agreement June 25. The district is fixing suspension disparities within the student body as part of the arrangement.

Gabriel Kaplan and Noah Orloff

According to Superintendent Astein Osei, the St. Louis Park School District was one of many districts in Minnesota that were notified about discrimination violations by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

“They found St. Louis Park to be one of 43 school districts in the state that had a disproportionate representation of students of color being suspended for things that would be considered subjective in nature,” Osei said. “St. Louis Park and other districts that are named in the complaints have higher numbers of students being suspended for disruptive behavior or insubordination, things that are in many ways in the eye of the adult they are interacting with.”

According to Osei, the St. Louis Park School District received discrimination charges following a bit of miscommunication with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR). He said the district was one of only a few charged that had also been found to have discriminatory disciplinary practices. The charge was later dropped in favor of an agreement to address the issue between the MDHR and the school district.

“We were charged based on what we heard from the department, due to a misunderstanding of the school district’s willingness and/or interest to work out an agreement,” Osei said. “(The MDHR) removed the charges and began to get into some problem solving and developing an agreement with the school district.”

The MDHR Commissioner Kevin Lindsey said the district community will be important in producing change.

“We believe that it is really important for parents, teachers, school officials all to be actively working together so all the agreements have a civic engagement component to it,” Lindsey said.

Sophomore Emmanuel Hawkins said the district should ensure that both sides of every story are heard before administrators make any substantial disciplinary decisions, such as suspension.

“You should at least hear out the side of the male or female who is being suspended because there are some people who actually do bad things,” Hawkins said. “I know a couple students from last year who should have been suspended or expelled, and then I also know a few students who were suspended for small things.”

Osei said he would like the agreement to eliminate any disproportionalities within students’ classrooms.

“The number one change (I hope to see) is that I hope St. Louis Park students will not see predictability around which one of their classmates will be suspended or which students will be suspended at a higher rate because of the color of their skin,” Osei said.