Hamilton County Schools Identified as Disproportionately Disciplining African-American Disabled Students

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HAMILTON COUNTY, Tennessee (WDEF) – The Tennessee Department of Education has identified Hamilton County schools to disproportionately discipline African American disabled students.

They are one of 25 state school districts identified from data from the last three school years.

Several school systems have appealed.

After the appeal process, two cases were not found to be disproportionately large.

Hamilton County has not appealed.

Hamilton County School officials said they were striving to improve with more training and partnerships.

They are also working on redesigning the code of conduct for the entire district.

Equity Officer Marsha Drake said current figures for the first half of this year show that the suspension rates of African-American disabled students are dropping.

"I attribute this to all the work we've done in focusing on positive school-wide behavior," Drake said. "A plethora of PD (professional development) that we have provided to our teachers and other school staff that we have and I have benefited us."

"Professional development is the key. Dr. Johnson has really invested in professional development this year. Dr. Drake has done a remarkable job in bringing together prosecutors and various stakeholders from different departments and simply giving this general professional development. We plan to reach 40% of our staff this summer, that is to say, a large number of staff to develop, but this is our goal for this summer and at the end of the school year, we hope reach 100%, "said Garfield Adams, director of Exceptional Education.

The state is required to review these data because of the 2004 law on the education of persons with disabilities.

Federal law requires identified districts to reallocate 15% of their IDEA funds to solve problems.