NCYL Challenges Racist Practices in School Districts in California, Connecticut
In line with its mission to protect and defend the rights of all students, the National Center for Youth Law has a deep history of challenging racist practices in school districts across the U.S.
These court filings, sometimes in partnership with fellow advocate organizations, have led to substantive change for students.
Among the notable civil rights cases filed by NCYL against school districts:
Humboldt County, California
NCYL joined with the ACLU of Northern California and California Indian Legal Services in filing a federal lawsuit charging that school officials in Eureka City schools and an OCR complaint against the the Loleta Union Elementary District, which are home to some of the state’s largest Native American communities, alleging intentional discrimination against Native American and Black students, and students with disabilities. These practices, according to the suit, included levying disproportionate levels of discipline for minor infractions and forcing these students out of mainstream schools at disproportionate rates.
A settlement agreement was ultimately reached with Eureka City School district and the OCR entered into a Volunary Resolution Agreement with Loleta.
In Eureka, school officials agreed to implement a community-wide collaborative process aimed at cultivating a positive and inclusive school climate where all students feel welcome and safe.
Additionally, the Eureka school district agreed to establish goals for enhancing multicultural curricula, providing students with disabilities appropriate accommodations and services, and reducing race- and disability-based disparities in discipline and transfers to alternative schools. It also commissioned a district-wide assessment of school climate, with a particular focus on issues related to racial/gender equity and student discipline.
In Loleta, where the complaint led to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the settlement agreement requires the school district to hire experts to address these problems and to establish a community oversight committee with the participation of the tribes along with other stakeholders.
NCYL was among the counsel that represented the East County NAACP in a federal lawsuit against the Antioch (California) school district for its discriminatory practices evidenced by its disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates for Black students, particularly those with disabilities.
The district initially responded to the suit by agreeing to address the issue by retaining leading experts in the fields of school discipline, special education, and social psychology to investigate and make recommendations to rectify the district’s practices.
The district attempted to renege on that agreement and the matter was ultimately resolved in State Court.
NCYL was among the counsel that represented two Black middle school students in a federal lawsuit — Alicia B. v. Malloy — that alleged they were effectively denied education services during their expulsions, despite their right to these services as established by the Connecticut State Constitution.
The complaint was brought to enforce the students’ rights to education and to equal protection under Connecticut and federal laws.
The sides settled the suit and the state passed legislation requiring that expelled students be educated in accordance with standards developed to ensure they can access education in a meaningful way, rather than fall behind and disengage from their education altogether.
Additionally, the settlement required that the state issue guidance to school districts; provide resources on reducing expulsions to districts, families and the community; and monitor and address racial disparities in expulsions. The state further agreed to scrutinize disproportionality in school discipline, and to draft policy that addresses racial disparities in expulsions throughout Connecticut schools.
NCYL and co-counsel brought a federal case on behalf of the Black Parallel School Board and three students in the Sacramento City Unified School District. The suit alleges flagrant districtwide disability and race discrimination against students with disabilities, especially Black students.
According to the suit, the Sacramento district has organized its programs in a way that segregates and denies students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities, a meaningful opportunity to be educated side-by-side with their peers in an inclusive environment. Further, the suit alleges the district imposes excessive and exclusionary discipline on students with disabilities for behavior caused by their disabilities.
The case is still in litigation.
NCYL is proud of its work protecting and defending the civil rights of students.