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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 5, 2016

Justice Department Reaches Agreement with Watson Chapel, Arkansas, School District to Prevent Discrimination and Reform Discipline Practices

The Justice Department reached an agreement with the Watson Chapel, Arkansas, School District to ensure that the district does not discriminate on the basis of race in its administration of school discipline.  The consent order, approved today by the District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, will replace the use of punitive discipline with more positive approaches as part of an overall focus on improving student achievement and school climate.  

The consent order is intended to address the remaining issues in the school desegregation case in Watson Chapel, and when fully implemented, will lead to the closing of that case.  As part of the consent order, the district will be required to:

•    implement a classroom management system that focuses on interventions and supports; 
•    eliminate out-of-school suspensions for offenses that do not involve or threaten safety; 
•    stop the use of corporal punishment, which has been disproportionately applied against black students and undermined the creation of a positive school climate;
•    assess the district’s support services for students with disabilities to ensure that students, particularly students of color, are not disciplined for their disabilities;
•    enter into an agreement with the law enforcement agencies that provide School Resource Officers (SROs) to the district that makes clear that SROs will not become involved in enforcing school discipline rules and prevents students from being arrested for minor misconduct; and 
•    conduct outreach to students, parents and community members to explain and solicit feedback on the district’s disciplinary policies and procedures. 

“For far too long, some school districts have used overly punitive and ineffective discipline practices that prevent students of color from reaching their full potential,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.  “We commend the Watson Chapel School District for committing to create an equal, supportive and inclusive learning environment for all.” 

The court will retain jurisdiction over the consent order during its implementation, and the Justice Department will monitor the district’s compliance.  The consent order is expected to take three years to implement. 

The enforcement of Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and religion in public schools, is a top priority of the Civil Rights Division.  Additional information about the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is available at www.justice.gov/crt.

Watson Chapel Consent Order

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Updated December 5, 2016