The Education Dept.’s (DoEd) Office for Civil Rights and Toledo Public Schools (TPS) reach an out-of-court settlement to address complaints that the district was not offering equal access to quality education for African American students following a recent redistricting effort.
At issue was a TPS redistricting/rebuilding plan that created 49 K-12 schools, some of which were racially identifiable schools. Specifically, 18 of the district’s 49 schools (37%) were racially identifiable as African American schools: 15 of the district’s 41 K-8 schools (37%) and three of the district’s eight high schools (37%).
School districts that receive federal funds must not intentionally discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin, and must not implement facially neutral policies that have the unjustified effect of discriminating against students on the basis of race. Creating race-concentrated schools raised questions over whether the district was in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in providing equitable resources to black students.
TPS is the fourth largest school district in the state of Ohio. The district reported to OCR that its total student enrollment in its kindergarten through twelfth-grade (K-12) facilities was 23,356, comprised of 10,137 (43.40%) African American students and 9,751 (41.75%) white students.
Under a 2011 transformation plan, the district reorganized all of its schools into six geographically designated “learning communities,” each centered around and named for a comprehensive high school, with feeder K-8 schools. Following its implementation of the transformation plan for the 2011-2012 school year, the district operated a total of 49 schools, including 41 K-8 elementary schools (including three magnet/specialty schools) and eight high schools (including two magnet/specialty schools). The district stated that its transformation plan was designed to increase community partnerships, broaden educational opportunities for students, and establish neighborhood schools.
However, the plan also created the large number of racially identifiable schools. OCR found that 26 (53%) of the district’s 49 K-12 schools were racially identifiable schools, either as a black identifiable school or as a white identifiable school. Once DoEd launched the investigation, TPS agreed to work with the department to fix any problems that OCR identified.
OCR identified a number of potential Title VI compliance concerns regarding equitable access to resources for African American students, including experienced teachers, teachers with master’s degrees; library access for K-8 students, and live distance learning classes for high school students.
The agreement provides that the district will:
- Obtain OCR approval of revised policies if its assessments reveal the district’s initiatives fail to ensure that qualified teachers are equitably distributed to all district schools.
- Obtain OCR approval of revised policies if assessments reveal the district’s initiatives fail to continue to ensure that building leaders are equitably distributed to all district schools.
- Ensure that all students at the district’s K-8 schools can access their schools’ libraries with the same frequency.
- Deliver “live” instruction of distance learning courses, including Advanced Placement and other higher-level courses, across its high schools in a racially equitable manner.
- Conduct outreach activities for students and parents to better assess and monitor its distribution and allocation of resources.
“Toledo Public Schools’ commitment through this resolution agreement, together with steps the district had begun during the course of our review, spotlight their important pledge to equity,” said Catherine Lhamon, assistant DoEd secretary for civil rights. “Superintendent Romules Durant’s efforts to examine and address racially equitable access to Toledo’s resources is critical to all the district’s students’ academic and long-term success.”