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TEA flags Waco ISD for discipline missteps with black students

TEA flags Waco ISD for discipline missteps with black students

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Bonny Cain

Waco Independent School District is working to correct problems with discipline after it was reprimanded by the Texas Education Agency for placing black students in the district’s alternative education program at a rate higher than other groups, among other infractions. WISD was issued a Stage 4 indicator for discipline, the most severe rating given, according to a report presented at the district’s Thursday night board of trustees meeting.

Data from the TEA report indicated that black students are three times more likely to be placed in the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program for offenses that don’t automatically require that placement, such as being involved in a gang or threatening another student.

About 60 percent of discretionary DAEP placements were black students, even though they make up about 30 percent of the student body.

Additionally, the district expelled 20 students for actions that are not considered expellable under the Texas Education Code, such as fighting and persistent misbehavior. Expellable offenses include possessing a weapon and selling drugs, among other misconduct.

The district also assigned a 5-year-old to the DAEP even though the minimum age is 6, the report said.

Superintendent Bonny Cain said the two administrators who made those mistakes are no longer employed by the district, and the data TEA used to assess the discipline issues are from at least a year ago.

“When violations do occur, we will address the administrator who made the mistake individually,” she said.

To combat these problems, WISD officials retrained all DAEP administrators on expulsion procedures, made a rule that three administrators must approve an expulsion and planned additional programs to reduce the number of students at DAEP.

Rick Hartley, executive director of student services, said the district already has made strides in addressing the issues.

One of the new programs the district will implement aims to identify special education students who need behavioral intervention before they get to the point where they would be considered for DAEP placement.

“We will not have these violations next year,” Hartley said.

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