Settlement Targets Discrimination against Marginalized Students 

California Must Improve Oversight Process of School Districts

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PITTSBURG, CA – The State of California will now be required to strengthen its monitoring and oversight of school districts to prevent systemic discrimination against Black students, children with disabilities and English learners, according to a settlement announced today.

“I hope this will help other families, so they don’t have to go through what my daughter went through,” said Jessica Black, a plaintiff whose daughter was enrolled in special education in Pittsburg Unified School District. “Black students are literally being denied access to an education and that’s not fair. There is still much work to be done to address racist practices within CDE."

For many years, Pittsburg Unified maintained a separate and unequal education system where marginalized students were segregated in substandard learning environments and targeted for unwarranted suspensions and expulsions.

In 2021, parents and a teacher filed a lawsuit, Mark S. v. California, in Contra Costa County Superior Court against Pittsburg Unified and the California State Board of Education. It specifically called out state education officials for being derelict in their responsibilities for overseeing the local school district.

Now, for the first time, the state must review individual student files to ensure students are treated fairly and have access to supportive learning environments. Furthermore, in direct response to the pressure from this lawsuit, the State has begun incorporating qualitative data review, including classroom observations and teacher interviews, into its monitoring of school districts' special education programs.

A discipline hotline has also been created so that potential discrimination can be reported.

State education officials also must extend their monitoring of Pittsburg Unified’s special education programs through the 2027-2028 school year.

The agreement is a significant victory in the battle to ensure that all children, regardless of their race or disability, receive the education that they deserve.

The plaintiffs were represented by Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.

Read the Settlement.


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