At least one parent and another community member accused the Davenport School District of treating minority students differently than other students Thursday night at a meeting of the new District Wide Davenport PTO (Parent Teacher Organization.)
A group of 25 people, including school board president Ralph Johanson, attended the meeting at the Fairmount Street branch of the Davenport Public Library.
The meeting was called to discuss the results of a state audit of the district’s special education program.
One parent, Tania Derrick Duex said her child, who is “over-impulsive,” was getting referrals about behavior. Administrators, she said, told her that her child “should go into a behavior-disorder class.” But her child tested at high levels in reading and math, with “no deficiencies whatsoever,” Duex said, "with no aggressiveness or acting out.”
Her child, she said, talked over the teacher and sometimes wandered the halls.
“Did anyone ever say ‘Stop talking?’” said Duex, who quit her job to help her child.
“If a kid who is testing high is put in BD, are they going to keep trying?” she asked.
“Is there such a fear of me and my blackness that you can’t tell my child ‘No. Stop talking?’” she asked. When someone is wandering the hallways, “You can’t tell them where they‘re supposed to be?”
“The fact that they were going to put my kid in BD for talking is just bananas to me,” Duex said. “I understand that racial disparity is a big issue and it’s a hard pill to swallow.”
Too often, she said, what happens, “especially with minority children,” they are put in behavior disorder class and are considered problematic. “If I had just taken their word for it, that would have been a continuing thing for my child."
Several other parents talked about their experiences with special-education in the district.
Special education has been a low priority for the school board, said Kari Dugan, one of the PTO organizers. “We’re talking about civil rights.”
Catarina Bolton was among the parents who spoke. “I thought that I was unique because I thought that we were the only ones dealing with (special-education issues). It’s heartbreaking,” she said, apologizing for choking back tears. “It’s not going to change unless we come together and make the change. Just as (board member Clyde Mayfield) said (at an earlier school board meeting) 'It has to be the will of the community to make that change.'"
Several speakers addressed noncompliance issues in the state audit that shows a disproportionate number of minority students identified for special education services, and a disproportionate number of minority special-education students who have been subjected to disciplinary actions such as being suspended or expelled or subject to seclusion or restraints.
Johanson did not address the group but acknowledged a thank-you from Dugan at the end of the meeting. “I always support advocacy efforts," he said. “I think they did a great job of pulling all this together and providing information."
Rep. Cindy Winckler, D-Davenport, encouraged parents to ask for consistency of terminology in IEP (individualized education plans). She also discussed resources available to them.
Patrick Peacock, the treasurer for MetroCom NAACP Unit 4019, Davenport, encouraged the PTO to meet and work with other organizations.