Portland District does not provide details on racial disparities in schools

The Portland Public School District says it could be several days before it releases data it says shows black students face more discipline than other college students in the city.

Although only 30% of students in the school district are black, black students accounted for 47% of college suspensions this year, Superintendent Xavier Botana said Tuesday night during a school board workshop on discrimination and harassment in colleges. district colleges.

Students at Lyman Moore (pictured) and Lincoln colleges protested in Portland on May 13 against what they say is a lack of action by school administrators to stem bullying over issues of equity and race . Gregory Rec / Personal Photographer

This is an increase in share compared to previous years, according to figures presented by Botana. In 2020, black students accounted for 42% of suspensions, in 2019, 38%, and in 2018, 28%. Data from 2021 has not been included.

Although Botana cited the school district‘s own information when sharing those percentages, the district did not provide the underlying data or details about how the data was collected and analyzed on Wednesday. Portland Public Schools spokeswoman Tess Nacelewicz said the district will provide further information to the Press Herald between Thursday and Monday.

The Maine Department of Education said Wednesday it does not collect race and discipline data that would reveal whether similar racial disparities are present elsewhere in the state.

The Portland School Board’s focus on discrimination in the city’s colleges comes about three weeks after Lincoln and Lyman Moore students walked out of their schools to protest what they said was a culture of tolerance towards racism and other forms of discrimination in schools.

Botana said the student discrimination allegations are not new, are consistent across all three district colleges, and are echoed in data gathered from student surveys conducted this year.

Portland School District students of color are more likely than white students to feel unsafe, uncomfortable talking to adults in their schools, and to feel unfairly treated, according to reports shared through parent and student surveys.

Now, as the school year draws to a close, the district is working to end on a high note and prepare for next year by hosting student affinity groups, collaborating with students over the summer, conducting a student-designed survey to learn more about the student experience and review disciplinary policies.

Botana also said Tuesday that he would like to use the board’s contingency funds to support the district’s response to the protests. It is unclear exactly how much money would be used or what exactly it would be used for. Botana declined to be interviewed on Wednesday.

Several Lincoln Middle School students interviewed Wednesday said they were happy to see the school district paying more attention to issues of discrimination and were very excited about the Black Student Union. But they questioned whether the equity efforts were genuine.

“It feels like the teachers don’t really mean it and the district doesn’t do these things because they want to, only because they feel they have to,” said Rachehny Rasmey, a student at sixth.

The students, some of whom did not want to be identified, said that although there were opportunities to share their feelings about the protests and teachers displayed posters promoting inclusion, patterns of discrimination and d Bullying among students continued with the same lack of response from teachers they spoke of during the May protest.

The Lincoln and Lyman Moore protests took place on May 13. Although the Lyman Moore protest went well, Lincoln students who did not return to class by the protest’s scheduled end time were kicked out of school. It’s unclear who stopped the students from returning to school, but some blamed acting Lincoln principal Robyn Bailey, who went on furlough shortly after the protests.

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