The Oakland Unified School District has cut suspensions nearly in half since 2012.
Several years ago, the Oakland Unified School District faced the same hard questions as Seattle Public Schools over racial disparities in school discipline. In September 2012, the California district signed a voluntary agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, promising to make big changes. Since then, district officials say they’ve succeeded in cutting school suspensions nearly in half.
What has Oakland done, and how? Four people involved in the effort will be in Seattle on Friday, July 17, to talk about its four main approaches, which include some of the practices used in a parts of Washington state: restorative justice, for example, and trauma-informed care.
They’ve been invited by a number of local organizations including the city of Seattle.
“It’s the most comprehensive approach that I was able to find in the country,” said Claudia Gross-Shader of the city auditor’s office.
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The auditor’s office, by request of the city council, has been evaluating the city’s youth violence prevention initiative. One of the goals of that initiative, Gross-Shader said, is to cut in half the number of middle-school suspensions and expulsions due to violence. But the last time the data was published, the rates in the target schools had gone up, not down.
When city auditors heard that Oakland had cut overall suspensions by close to that rate, she said, “we were interested because that number is so remarkably close to Seattle’s goal.”
The four speakers are: Theresa Clincy, the Oakland district’s coordinator of attendance and discipline; Barbara McClung, director of behavioral health initiatives; Antonio Fregoso, Sergeant of Oakland School Police; and Emilio Ortega, manhood development instructor and restorative justice coordinator.
They will speak at two public events:
— From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave., Bertha Knight Landes Room. Bring your own lunch; water and juice provided.
— From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Seattle’s South Shore PK-8 School, 4800 S. Henderson. Food will be provided at 5:30 p.m. and the program starts at 6 p.m.
If you want to read up beforehand, here are some of the materials recommended by the event’s sponsors: