Racial Disparities In School Suspensions Found Across State

May 3, 2015
Thelma R. Parks Elementary School in Northeast Oklahoma City, which had the highest overall suspension rate in Oklahoma City at 42.1 percent.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Minority students are being suspended at higher rates than their white classmates not only in Oklahoma City Public Schools, which triggered a federal probe, but also in other districts across the state, U.S. Department of Education data show.

The disparity is often greatest between black and white students, but also occurs between white students and American Indian and Hispanic students.

See student suspensions by school and race.

Oklahoma House Democratic Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City), flanked by state Reps. Ed Cannaday and Donnie Condit, during Monday's press conference marking 25 years since the passage of HB 1017.
HouseDems OK / YouTube

Members of the House Democratic Caucus and several longtime Oklahoma teachers and administrators marked the silver anniversary of a landmark overhaul of the state's education system Wednesday, and called for further changes.

Gov. Henry Bellmon signed House Bill 1017 on April 25, 1990. It used a $560 million tax increase over five years to reduce class sizes, boost minimum teacher salaries, and fund statewide curriculum standards, testing, and early childhood programs.

Thelma R. Parks Elementary School in Northeast Oklahoma City, which had the highest overall suspension rate in Oklahoma City at 42.1 percent.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The higher number of black student suspensions starts at an early age in Oklahoma City, where 12 elementary schools suspended more than 40 percent of their black students in 2011-2012.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education show black students in elementary schools are consistently suspended at higher rates than their white peers in Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Rob Neu addresses reporters during an April 21, 2015 news conference about the district's discipline practices toward minority students.
Oklahoma Watch / YouTube

Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Rob Neu said Tuesday the district is revisiting its code of conduct, and if kids aren’t threatening the safety of others they need to stay in school.

During a press conference, Neu told reporters he also wants the district to get better at intervening before problems get out of hand. He also emphasized that connecting with the student, parents, and community is vital to the solution.

A class in the assistant principal's old office at Burcham Elementary in Weatherford.
Emily Wendler / KOSU

Oklahoma has gained 40,000 new students since 2008, but funding from the legislature hasn’t kept up with the growth. More students and less money means some schools are running out of space and have been dipping deep in to their savings accounts. They are making do, but it’s at a tipping point for some districts. Either they get more funding and add more space, or the class sizes get bigger and bigger.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt
Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt / Facebook

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt says religious freedoms are under attack in Oklahoma and he's telling public school districts across the state he's ready to protect them for allowing citizens to distribute Bibles in schools.

a school classroom with empty chairs
comedy_nose / Flickr Creative Commons

State education officials said Oklahoma’s new testing vendor “is absolutely not” tracking students on the Internet when monitoring social media in accordance with the state’s contract.

A provision in Measured Progress’ contract with Oklahoma calls for the New Hampshire-based education and testing vendor to monitor online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook for issues regarding testing. The company is supposed to report those issues to the state Department of Education.

Local school districts would report accusations of sexual misconduct by teachers to state education officials under legislation approved by the Oklahoma House.

House members voted 61-29 for the measure Thursday and sent it to the state Senate.

The bill authorizes local school districts to give the state Board of Education a superintendent's recommendation to dismiss or not re-hire a teacher if the recommendation includes grounds that could result in criminal charges for sexual abuse or exploitation.

Teachers and education supporters rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City Monday.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Nowhere near the 50,000 anticipated education supporters turned out Monday for a rally at the state Capitol - estimates indicate the crowd was closer to 5,000 - but the teachers that were there made their presence known.

Wearing T-shirts from their hometown schools, attendees wandered the halls of the Capitol and congregated outside legislators' offices to tell lawmakers that their shrinking budgets are making it difficult to give kids a quality education - and they need more funding.

A similar rally held last year drew an estimated 25,000 people.

State Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman)
Oklahoma Senate

A Democratic state senator who opposes a bill creating education savings accounts is proposing three amendments that appear to take a shot at other recent Republican legislation.

The amendments involve drug testing parents and bans on Advanced Placement U.S. history courses and Common Core standards materials.