Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey

Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Kevin Lindsey 

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (DHR) reached settlement agreements or tentative agreements with 39 of the charter schools or school districts to reduce disparities in suspensions and expulsions for students with disabilities and students of color for non-safety related incidents.

DHR signed settlement agreements with 34 of the charter schools and school districts to reduce disparities in suspensions and expulsions for students with disabilities and students of color and anticipate that agreements with most of the remaining districts and charter schools will be finalized before the start of the school year.

“The Department would like to commend these schools and districts for taking on this important issue to ensure the next generation of Minnesota students have the opportunity to be in class, succeed and reach their educational goals,” said Commissioner Kevin Lindsey. “Parents and community members are eager to work with the schools and districts to collaboratively address this statewide issue.”

Last fall, DHR met with 43 Minnesota districts and charter schools after reviewing the most recent five years of public data reported by schools and districts to the Minnesota Department of Education’s Discipline Incident Reporting System (DIRS). DHR analysis of DIRS data showed that Minnesota’s rate of suspension is equal to or significantly higher than national rates. In Minnesota, students of color comprise 31 percent of the population, yet receive 66 percent of all suspensions and expulsions; students with disabilities comprise 14 percent of the population, yet receive 43 percent of all suspensions and expulsions.

DHR has finalized agreements with 34 districts and charter schools, including Best Academy, Bloomington Public Schools, Brooklyn Center School District, Columbia Heights Public Schools, Duluth Public Schools, Eden Prairie Schools, Fridley School District, Hopkins Public Schools, Mastery Charter School, Minnesota Transitions Charter School, Mounds View Public Schools, North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale Public Schools, Richfield Public Schools, Robbinsdale Area Schools, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, St. Louis Park Public Schools, St. Paul City School, St. Paul Public Schools, South St. Paul Public Schools and Wayzata Public Schools. Additionally, the Osseo Area Schools District addressed their agreement at its school board meeting July 30 and DHR is waiting for its signed agreement.

DHR has reached tentative agreements with five others and is expecting their boards to take action on their agreement in the next few weeks. Legal counsel for Anoka-Hennepin School District Edina Public Schools, Kipp Minnesota Charter School, Minneapolis Public Schools and Rochester Public Schools will all consider signing the agreement in the coming days.  

The agreements with these school districts and charter schools are aimed at working collaboratively on the complex issues of developing student discipline policies and practices that reduce out of school suspensions and expulsions, address disparities for students of color and students with disabilities and provide a safe and supportive school environment for all students and school employees.

“We fully expect that, by the start of the new school year, we will have come to agreement with all of these districts and charter schools,” said Lindsey. “These collaborative agreements aim to increase educational outcomes and reduce suspensions and expulsions for students of color and students with disabilities. In Minnesota’s public schools, 39 percent of all of our public school students are children of color and that number is increasing every year. The number of students with disabilities is currently 14 percent and is rising. If we don’t think smarter now, work together for solutions now, and strive to ensure that all kids have the chance to be successful in school now, our economy will suffer as our children will not be ready for the future. Minnesota is engaging in this effort to give all students an equal opportunity to stay in class, succeed, and build skills. Our future and our shared success depend on it.”

In reviewing the Federal Civil Rights Data Collection and data in the recent report released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), MDHR found that nationally, Native-American students were five times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. In Minnesota, they are ten times more likely. Nationally, African-American students were three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. In Minnesota, they are eight times more likely. Students of color were twice more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers. Students with disabilities were twice more likely to be suspended or expelled than their peers without disability.

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