District 742 Under Fire From State Department of Human Rights
ST. CLOUD -- In a move board members were "taken aback" by, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights is investigating District 742 for disciplinary discrepancies. St. Cloud is one of 43 districts under investigation.
According to the board, the DHR is ignoring years of district work in implementing several programs aimed at trying to modernize their disciplinary practices.
The district was handed two options by the DHR, which Board Chair Al Dahlgren calls onerous and borderline unconstitutional. Among the demands were hiring new staff to oversee the district in their disciplinary capacity.
"We would have been required to hire staff for implementation of their programs, they also would've required a massive documentation effort."
Dahlgren says these measures would cost the district too much over several years. He says the district has worked for years to implement programs that are designed to handle the very thing they're accused of now. These include:
- Elimination of zero tolerance policies except where required by law.
- A robust and full implemented Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program
- Restorative Justice
- Culturally responsive instructional practices
- Additional staff training in conflict resolution and de-escalation
- Educating students on conflict resolution skills
- A significant expense of district resources to provide in-school alternatives to suspension
According to the district, the DHR hasn't received any formal complaint referring discrimination in District 742's disciplinary policies. Dahlgren says the DHR is ignoring what the district is doing, investigating them based on issues out of their control.
"The Department of Human Rights is ignoring the fact that there are demographic disparities between districts that can magnify this problem."
He says the district has gone above and beyond trying to tackle these issues.
"I think our school district has gone out of it's way implementing programs and addressing these issues, we should not be held to a standard that cannot be met."
Dahlgren adds, what the DHR wants from the district would hamper its ability to maintain a stable learning environment. Something he says students absolutely deserve.
"Kids who come to school, deserve to have a classroom in which they can learn. And if there are discipline issues in that classroom, we have to have the ability to remove that student so the other kids can learn."
The board decided they'd offer their own agreement to the department. Dahlgren says the agreement shows the DHR everything they've done. Including implementing a large amount of their reccommended programs in a "methodical and thoughtful way".
Another issue the DHR raised was expulsions in the district. Dahlgren says the board has to approve every expulsion, and hasn't seen one in his six years on it.
WJON reached out to the Department of Human Rights to get a copy of the letter they sent the district. They said, since the district is under investigation, details surrounding it cannot be made public.
The board maintains since the DHR has not received any compaints about discriminatroy policies, they do not have probable cause to investigate them.