” One of the District’s highest-performing charter schools is under federal investigation amid allegations it more harshly disciplines African American students.”
The probe comes as a result of an incident last May, as reported by Ms. Stein, in which the school went on lock-down for over an hour after two black special needs seventh grade students were heard discussing shooting after school. The pupils were talking about playing basketball, but a teacher at the charter reported the issue to the police due to a fear that these kids were about to do something violent. The children were then interviewed by the police without their parents present.
One of these parents, Yumica Thompson, together with assistance from the Advocates for Justice and Education, has now brought a complaint to the United States Education Department regarding inequitable discipline of black students at Basis DC PCS.
Ms. Stein includes some highly disturbing statistics in her article about the Education Department inquiry:
“At BASIS DC, 13 percent of black students and 2 percent of white students received out-of-school suspensions, according to city data. Ten percent of Hispanic students received out-of-school suspensions. Five percent of black students and 4 percent of Hispanic students received in-school suspensions, compared with 2 percent of white students.”
I did some other demographic research about Basis using data from the DC Public Charter School Board. Across the charter sector, black enrollment is at approximately 75 percent while at Basis DC High School it is 36.6 percent. In charters in the nation’s capital white attendance is at about five percent while at the Basis High School this statistic is at 39.1 percent. Economically disadvantaged pupils make up 22.1 percent of the student population at Basis while for charters as a whole this number is over 70 percent. English Language Learners comprise approximately eight percent of charter student bodies while at Basis this statistic is at two percent. Finally, Basis High School has a special education enrollment of four and a half percent, while charters see about 12 percent of students requiring Individualized Education Plans.
In other words, Basis has been able to shape its student body in a manner that would increase the probability that its student would be able to meet the demands of the school’s rigorous academic curriculum. The Department of Education review will inform us as to whether one way that it achieved this goal was through discriminatory disciplinary actions.
However, the information presented here is not new. The misalignment of this charter’s population with the rest of the movement has been known for some time and was predicted here when the school applied to open in D.C. For example, below is what DC PCSB member Steve Bumbaugh stated when Basis sought to expand by opening an elementary school in 2016:
“He revealed that for the last three weeks he had been studying the student enrollment data at the charter and he frankly found the numbers to be ‘concerning.’ For example, he discovered that across the charter sector in D.C. 79 percent of students are economically disadvantaged but at Basis this number is 17 percent. Again, he observed, overall for charters 15 percent of pupils are classified as Special Education and at Basis this number is less than five percent. Moreover, at Basis less than 10 percent of kids are found to be At Risk while for charters that statistic is 51 percent. Finally, Mr. Bumbaugh explained that charters are characterized by student populations that include 7 percent English Language Learners while at Basis this percentile is zero.”
The question is what comes next?
For example, will the DC Public Charter School continue to support Basis as a means of lifting the average academic performance of the sector as a whole? Or will it take the moral course and encourage Basis to incorporate as a private school?
Here is one innovative approach to solve this issue. Basis could become private and then demonstrate for all to see its determined commitment to educating kids living in poverty by accepting a majority of its student body through the Opportunity Scholarship Program.
I guess I can still dream.