The Washington State Attorney General’s Office said Friday it will not investigate a civil-rights complaint a group of parents filed over Seattle Public Schools’ gifted-education program.
The group filed the complaint Dec. 2, claiming that the district is violating state law because it hasn’t made a “concerted effort” to address the racial imbalance of its advanced-learning program, which enrolls mostly white and Asian students. It also claims that the district’s proposals to change the way services are currently offered would also break the law.
The response, signed by the Attorney General’s office and the state Education Department, said the agencies will continue monitoring the district’s efforts to reform the program to allow equitable access. It also offered other avenues for the group to file a complaint, including the Washington State Human Rights Commission and the federal education department’s civil-rights division. The Attorney General’s office sent the response to district officials and the complainants Friday afternoon.
The debate over gifted education in Seattle has raged since the beginning of this school year, when the district proposed phasing out its highly selective Highly Capable Cohort program (HCC). Students qualify for the program by taking tests; the students with the highest scores are labeled Highly Capable. They complete accelerated coursework in a network of schools in classrooms with other HCC students, largely separate from the general population.
Students who perform well on intelligence tests, but don’t meet the HCC cutoff score, can still qualify for some advanced-learning opportunities in their neighborhood schools — but parents say the offerings are inconsistent.
Superintendent Denise Juneau has argued the HCC program, which predominantly enrolls white and Asian students, created a legacy of racially segregated classrooms in the network of schools that teach HCC students. In an effort to change that, her administration has proposed ending the system of separate classrooms and instead blending gifted students into classes with their peers.
Advanced learning would be offered through neighborhood schools. School Board officials rejected that proposal in September. Some modified version of the plan is expected to resurface this spring.
This week, state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, filed a bill that would intervene with the district’s planned changes.