'Glaring' equity gap in discipline at D91

Superintendent stresses need for answers, solutions

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Print

By Maria Maxham

In what Superintendent Louis Cavallo called a "glaring" gap in equity, 75 to 80 percent of Office Discipline Referrals (ODRs) in District 91 are for African-American males.

"After looking at thousands of ODRs over the past three years, what's obvious is that African-American males are experiencing school differently than other students," said Cavallo. It is something, he said to the board, that cannot be ignored.

The problem was brought up at a recent National Equity Project (NEP) meeting Cavallo attended. D91 signed a contract with the NEP in February 2018 to address racial inequities and their impact on academic performance. 

At a Jan. 9 board of education meeting, Cavallo reported that at the most recent NEP meeting he was glad to see data showing D91 doesn't over-identify any racial group in terms of IEPs or under-identify any in terms of gifted programs like Challenge. But such a large percentage of kids being sent to the office for disciplinary issues is significant and the problem worrisome.

Cavallo said the district needs to look at this information honestly and be candid about the issue before a solution can be found.

"We need to find out why this is occurring," said Cavallo. "What else do we need to know to understand and solve this?"

Initial delving into the issue began with looking at whether specific teachers were responsible for a large number of the ODRs and when and where they occurred (in the hallway vs. the lunchroom vs. classrooms). This preliminary investigation gave no concrete answers but showed, said Cavallo, that across the board at all D91 schools a disproportionate number of African-American male students were being sent to the office for discipline issues related to the three D's: disruption, disrespect and defiance.

"If we habitually tell kids, 'You're defiant, you're disruptive, you're disrespectful, get out, get out, get out,' we are creating the pipeline. We condition them to believe this is who they are," Cavallo said emphatically.

Going forward, Cavallo said, he will work with James Edler, director of Innovative Instruction, and other staff and faculty, with the help of NEP advisors, to take a very deep look at the issue to understand why it's occurring. Cavallo said they need to ask big questions, like whether bias is in play and why, and whether students and staff are defining the three D's in the same way.

Board President Kyra Tyler, in response to Cavallo's presentation, said maybe students and teachers need to have a better shared understanding of what defiance, for example, means. Teachers and staff can't expect kids to stop being defiant if they don't have a clear understanding of how that is being defined.

Cavallo agreed, saying the problem can't be fixed from the top down. Both student and teacher voices need to be heard, he said, adding that there's no simple solution. 

"It's a complex problem," he said. "Sometimes our systems don't work well for all students."

Cavallo will be retiring at the end of the 2020/2021 school year, and he urged board members to remember the importance of the National Equity Project. "The board needs to be sure this continues when I leave," he said.

Love the Review?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Forest Park Review and ForestParkReview.com. We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Community Guide 2019 - 2020

To view the full print edition of the Forest Park Review 2019 - 2020 Community Guide, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Forest Park.


            
SubscribeClassified
MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad

Latest Comments