Tonight, an important conversation will be taking place in Rochester.  A lot of discussions have been taking place in Rochester regarding the discipline practices in the school district.  Parents and members of the community will be gathering tonight to have a conversation about the concerns over student discipline and have invited the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) to participate.
“The Department appreciates the opportunity to continue the discussions that have occurred with people in the Rochester community,” said Commissioner Kevin Lindsey. “Parents and community members have been asking the District to make changes and they do not feel heard. We are eager to go and hear more.”  (Press release sent by the Diversity Council)
When:  Wednesday, July 18th, 2018
Time: 6 to 8 p.m.
Where: Rochester Eagles Club, 917 15th Ave. SE, Rochester, MN 55904
Who: The event will be hosted by the Rochester For Justice and Diversity Council - Rochester, MN and MDHR Commissioner Kevin Lindsey will be there for the conversation.
Rochester is not the only district where concerns have been made but currently is a district where MDHR has seen negotiations slow down.  According to the press release from the Diversity Council, Commissioner Lindsey stated:
“I am concerned about the status of our efforts to work collaboratively with the Rochester School District at a time when parents and community members are asking for someone to hear their concerns. Looking at the data that the District provided to MDE’s DIRS, one sees increases all around. The number of suspensions the District has given increased 20 percent in one year. Their disparities for students of color and students with disabilities grew. Additionally, the District increased its use of suspensions for subjective reasons like disrespect, disorderly-conduct, insubordination, and in the undefined category called other. Even their suspensions for the attendance category increased. This is very concerning.”
“That said, I remain hopeful that negotiations with the Rochester School District will continue. We are always willing to work with districts and schools to find common ground around our shared goals of ensuring that all students have the same opportunities to find success in any of our Minnesota schools regardless of race or disability”   
The Rochester Public Schools issued a response to this forum:
"Rochester Public Schools acknowledges there is still significant work to be done on the issue of disparities. The school district has seen some improvement in addressing this issue. For example, there was a slight decrease in the disproportionality for black students from the 2016-2017 school year to the 2017-2018 school year and a significant decrease in the disproportionality for Native American students over the same time period. The disproportionality for Hispanic students remained the same. This is an issue across the country. Earlier this year, OCR and the U.S. Government Accountability Office released reports showing disparities in the rates at which different student populations are disciplined continue to be a nationwide problem for which there is no simple or well-defined solution. These disparities are an ongoing concern in Rochester, as well as many other Minnesota school districts. Effecting change at the local, state, or national level with respect to these disparities will take more than a few school years.
With respect to Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey’s statements about the status of discussions between Rochester Public Schools and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, the school district informed the Commissioner and his staff many times that it would like to work collaboratively with the Department of Human Rights on issues related to student discipline. Unfortunately, Commissioner Lindsey and the Department of Human Rights have not responded to the school district’s repeated inquiries as to what the Commissioner believes Rochester Public Schools should be doing to address student discipline disparities in addition to what the school district is already doing pursuant to the OCR agreement. Rochester Public Schools is hopeful that it will receive a response from the Commissioner soon and remains willing to continue discussions about working collaboratively with the Department of Human Rights.
Rochester Public Schools encourages parents and community members to share any concerns they may have related to student discipline issues. The Student Discipline Supervisor serves as a resource for parents, guardians, students and other individuals who have questions or concerns regarding the school district’s student discipline policies and procedures. In addition, the ongoing Community Focus Team was elevated in status to an official Task Force of the School Board in December 2017. The Community Focus Team is comprised of numerous community and school district representatives. It was initially formed in 2016 to create a partnership between Rochester Public Schools and community stakeholders with the goal of reducing student discipline disparities and increasing school success.
You can read their full statement here.
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