HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - It was supposed to be the beginning of the end. In 2015, Huntsville City Schools and the Justice Department reached a consent agreement aimed at resolving a decades old school desegregation order. A recently discovered report, obtained by WHNT News 19's Investigative Team, shows instead of improving, Huntsville City Schools is potentially moving in the wrong direction.
In the 2015-2016 School Discipline Report, Huntsville City Schools claim though the numbers don't look good for the district, school leaders are already working on solutions to fix the problem. However, when WHNT News 19 reached out to District 5 School Board Member Pam Hill, she told us she didn't know such a report existed.
The school system is required by the federal government to submit statistics like these yearly, to show progress.
As a part of the Federal Consent Agreement, both the district and Department of Justice agreed to Judge Haikala's mandate that Huntsville City Schools reduce the amount of African Americans disciplined in and out of the classroom. That's because she observed in the 2013-14 school year, African-American students were twice as likely to face discipline as their white counterparts.
Adjustments were made to the Behavioral Learning Guide in early 2015, but the 2015-2016 discipline report shows the opposite happened.
Blossomwood Elementary's black students were 10 times more likely to face disciplinary referrals compared to white students.
Huntsville Junior High, seven times more likely.
Grissom High, four times more likely, and there are more.
In a separate report, Huntsville City Schools called these numbers unusually high, blaming a late roll out of the new Behavior Learning Guidelines which caused teacher confusion, issues from new blended student populations and even the 2016 Presidential Election causing more drama.
At the end of that report, Huntsville City Schools claim quote "The district will develop and implement strategies to address issues regarding the student code of conduct or other school-level and district-level issues identified for improvement."
The report was submitted a month ago, which is why when WHNT News 19 reached out to School Board Member Pam Hill, she told us she had no idea this report even existed, was sad to hear of the results, and will immediately address these concerns Thursday night during the School Board meeting.
We reached out to the rest of the school board as well. One other member responded, referring us to a school official who might be more knowledgeable about the report. School Board President Elisha Ferrell told us, "We were under the old Student Code of Conduct last year, school year 15-16. The report you are seeing is a summation of a school year that was prior to the implementation of the current Behavior Learning Guide. Huntsville City Schools knew the Code of Conduct needed work and that it needed to be done thoroughly. That takes time, so 16 of our teachers and principals spent most of the year evaluating what worked and what didn’t work, and wrote the two Behavior Learning Guides (BLGs). We rolled out the BLGs at the beginning of the Fall Semester in 2016," says Ferrell.
We also asked the district to provide someone with the Superintendent's office to go over these numbers with us, but we were told there was no one available because they were all busy preparing for Thursday night's School Board meeting.