IRSD forming advisory board under consent order requirements

SELBYVILLE — Indian River School District’s committed implementation of a consent order geared toward building its capacity to meet all students’ needs in their home schools has reached the advisory board stage.

Formation of the community advisory board focusing on academic/behavioral interventions for all district students is among the requirements in the November 2019 consent order that avoided a court date with a community coalition whose 2016 lawsuit claimed the district disproportionally used G.W. Carver Academy as a “punitive dumping ground” for black students.

Indian River School District Superintendent Mark Steele. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

The community advisory board will consist of various community stakeholders. Board members will meet on a schedule to be determined with school district representatives and consult with the court-appointed Special Master.

The board will include at least two members from the local level NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and at least one member who has expertise and commitment to inclusive practices, according to the consent order.

Anyone who is interested in serving on the board should contact director of special education Judith Brittingham at judith.brittingham@irsd.k12.de.us.

Under the consent order, Dr. Linda 0. Rhen is appointed as Special Master, harboring all necessary and appropriate authority to supervise and enforce compliance with the terms of the agreement.

To view the G.W. Carver consent order, go to irsd.net/consent order.

G.W. Carver Academy, an alternative school focusing on students’ academic, behavioral and personal needs, will be discontinued by the end of the 2019-20 school year.

District students enrolled in the Carver Academy Program at the end of the 2019-20 school year will be transitioned to an appropriate placement as determined by the IEP (Individualized Education Program) team with the goal of transitioning students to their home school or the least restrictive environment pursuant to the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), under the order.

The Coalition for Education formed in 2010 as an unincorporated association of concerned community members geared to promote the educational success of minority students in the IRSD.

In its 2016 suit filed in U.S. District Court for Delaware, the coalition claimed the Indian River School District historically removed African-American students from mainstream schools and disproportionately assigned them to Carver, a special-purpose school operated by the district, under the pretext that they were “troublemakers.”

According to the coalition’s suit, during the 2015-16 school year African-American students comprised only 13.3 percent of the overall student population in the IRSD but comprised 42.9 percent of the Carver Academy population.

The lawsuit further stated in each of the previous years, dating to the 2011-12 school year, African-American students accounted for more than 41.2 percent of Carver’s population, and the percentage of black students at that school was more than half in 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15.

IRSD Superintendent Mark Steele and Rev. Claudia Waters, president of the Coalition for Education, commented last November on the consent order agreement.

Mr. Steele said the district actually began transitioning Carver’s alternative school program several years earlier through reduction of the number of students, largely due to the district securing resources for mental health issues.

“It really made sense for us to do the consent order,” said Mr. Steele. “If you read that consent order, it is very clear: neither side is guilty of anything. Nobody is admitting anything wrong on either side. It just happened to be that where we’ve gotten with our program that we just kind of felt, ‘Why continue and take this to court?’”

“What we wanted to do was to make sure that a placement would be given to where the resources would be given to all of these students who had special needs, and that the funding would be used directly for that,” said Rev. Waters. “We wanted them to make sure they took a closer to look at the program and to be able to implement it for justice for these children.”