Friday, October 30, 2015
U.S. Ed Department said district discriminated in out-of-district placements, will monitor plan to address it
The U.S. Department of Education has determined that some claims of racial discrimination in the East Ramapo School District are founded, and will closely monitor an agreement with the Rockland district to address the issue.
In a letter this week to the Spring Valley branch of the NAACP, the department's Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, determined that a disproportionate number of out-of-district placements for special education students went to white children. The office had reviewed NAACP complaints of racial discrimination based on race and national origin, including claims that Yiddish-language classes were offered more frequently than Spanish- and Creole-language classes.
OCR ceased further investigation and last month East Ramapo agreed to a 12-point plan to address concerns over discrimination, particularly over the district's procedures for placement of special education students and in the development of alternative language programs.
"OCR will monitor implementation of the resolution agreement," OCR Director Timothy Blanchard wrote to NAACP President Willie Trotman on Tuesday. "If the district fails to comply with the terms of the resolution agreement, OCR will resume its investigation."
The move comes two months after Dennis Walcott, a former New York City schools chancellor, was named New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to head a panel to monitor district operations. The panel was asked to ensure that East Ramapo students receive a good education and that taxpayer money is spent appropriately.
Both are big issues in a district plagued by mistrust between a Board of Education dominated by Orthodox and Hasidic men who send their children to private yeshivas and parents of public school students who are mostly black and Latino.
Darren Dopp, a spokesman for the school district, could not be reached for comment.
But Wilbur Aldridge, head of the Mid-Hudson NAACP, called the district's 12-point plan and the federal promise to monitor the district plan, "almost having a monitor over the monitor."
"They are verifying what we already found," Aldridge said. "You really didn't need the feds to tell you that it was founded."
Eric Grossfeld, co-founder of the advocacy group Get Up, Stand Up: East Ramapo, said the plan was "a tremendous breakthrough for everyone fighting for equality in East Ramapo."
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