NAACP Files Complaint Against Texas School District for Disproportionately Citing Black Students

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The Brazos County, Texas branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and non-profit Texas Appleseed filed a civil rights complaint Wednesday against Bryan Independent School District (ISD).

Lawyers from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) say the district’s implementation of school resource officers (SROs) had led to criminal sanctions against students for non-criminal behavior, such as disrupting classroom activities or using profanity.

According to the complaint, African-American students in the east Texas district are cited by SROs at a rate four times that of the general student population. Students with “Class C misdemeanor” tickets frequently must skip class to appear at municipal courts, and face the potentiality of having criminal records due to the school-based penalties.

The complainants are requesting that the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) require the Bryan ISD to create new distinctions between what constitutes “school safety” and “school discipline” policies and procedures. Applying a “disparate impact” standard, the OCR could find the ISD liable if the district’s SRO policies have the effect of discrimination -- regardless of intention.

"In a very real sense, the Bryan school district is using law enforcement as its disciplinary arm,” NCYL Senior Attorney Michael Harris said in a press release issued by the organization. “The school district must be held accountable for the disproportionate impact on African-American students, who are also much more likely to be suspended and expelled from Bryan schools.”

Despite making up only a quarter of the district’s total student population, African-American students received more than half of all Class C misdemeanors within the ISD over the last three years, according to Texas Appleseed Deputy Director Deborah Fowler.

“In Texas, the consequences are particularly serious because ticketed students are sent to adult courts that do not extend young people the confidentiality and other protections provided in juvenile courts,” she said.