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Listening Session Tackles Racial Disparities in Rochester Schools

July 19, 2018 12:03 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- The Minnesota Department of Human Rights held a listening session in Rochester Wednesday night to hear from current and former students and parents about racial disparities in discipline in the Rochester school district.

In 2017, the department identified 34 public school districts, including Rochester Public Schools, and nine charter schools that saw significant disparities between white students and students of color in the number of suspensions and expulsions given out over the past five years. Despite its efforts, those disparities increased in Rochester between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. 

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That's a concern for Mayo High School senior Siham Abdi, who said a constant feedback loop of negative reinforcement can have lasting consequences.

"I don't think these kids should be given an easy hand, but at the same time, if they're seeing a troubled student keep being a troubled student, then maybe they should try to address some things, maybe something's going on at home, maybe something's going on with their lives, instead of just suspending them over and over," she said.

Many at Wednesday's meeting said they want action and not just words, and they hope having state attention will help.

"We have to be really holistic. There's no -- I wish there was -- one answer to this question, but it really requires a comprehensive examination of what you're doing within a school to be successful," department commissioner Kevin Lindsey said.

RPS released a statement saying in part they're proud of their efforts but recognize more needs to be done. 

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Logan Reigstad

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