Editor’s note: To download the report’s executive summary click here.
There’s no evidence that teachers and administrators at North Atlanta High discriminated against black and Hispanic students, but investigators say the students who made these allegations acted “bravely.”
That is the ultimate conclusion of a report released on Sept. 20 by Atlanta Public Schools. The report is a summary of an investigation into allegations of grade changing and racial discrimination at the high school. Though the report names several teachers at the public school, the Buckhead Reporter is declining to name them because there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support the allegations.
Even though the report clears teachers and administrators of wrongdoing, the report makes it clear that there’s a perception of unfair treatment of black and minority students that must not be ignored. It also commends the students who made the ultimately unfounded accusations against their teachers.
“It should also be noted that although there was no finding of racial discrimination as prescribed by law, there was compelling testimony and statistical data which overwhelmingly substantiate racial disparity and disharmony that should not be ignored,” the report concludes. “To do so would severely harm students who bravely asserted their claims, and are hopeful their concerns will be addressed.”
The executive summary of the report suggests, “Perhaps the entire faculty and student population of NAHS could benefit from some form of sensitivity/tolerance training to address the race perception” at NAHS, but offers no specific suggestions about how to move forward.
Contrary to the report’s final word on the matter, the report itself offers no evidence of overwhelming statistical data substantiating racial disparities in the school. In every instance of alleged discrimination described within the 166-page document, it found the allegations were not backed up by the actual data.
In one example of this, black students told investigators they felt a teacher was using dress code violations to unfairly target black students. Investigators combed over two years of in-school suspension data.
“The results were as follows,” the report says. “There were 661 documented in-school suspensions for the 2011-2012 academic year. Of those 661 incidents, only six documented incidents were for dress code violations. African American female students accounted for four of the dress code violations. One dress code violation was by a Hispanic female student. One dress code violation was by a Caucasian female student. During the 2012-2013 academic year, there were 324 documented in school suspensions. Of those 324 incidents, only seven documented incidents were for dress code violations. Four dress code violations were by African American female students. Two dress code violations were by African-American male students. One dress code violation was by a Hispanic female student.”
The report concluded, “While the (in school suspension) logs reflected more minority students receiving ISS for dress code violations, the insignificant amount of dress code referrals (13 documented dress code violations out of 985 incidents which were referred to in school suspension) was not sufficient to support a trend of disparity.”
In another example, investigators probed the racial make up of North Atlanta’s four Small Learning Communities, essentially schools within schools that concentrate on different disciplines, like performing arts and business. Investigators focused their attention on allegations about the International Studies SLC, which does have the largest number of white students of any of the four SLCs.
White students accounted for 47 percent of students in the International Studies program. Black students accounted for 34 percent, Hispanics accounted for 8 percent and Asians accounted for 6 percent. To put that in perspective, the total student population of the entire school was 1,418 students for the years studied. There were 731 black students enrolled, 324 white students, 275 Hispanic and 30 Asian. Approximately 72 percent of the school’s white population was in the IS program, the report found.
Did that mean it was a discriminatory program? No, the investigators concluded.
“During the course of the investigation, students interviewed indicated that the (International Studies Small Learning Community) was composed of all most all Caucasian students,” the report says. “However, the data reflects that 53 percent of the students in the IS SLC are, in fact, minority students (when combining all minority races). Also, the preponderance of evidence obtained via student interviews also revealed that a student’s choice of SLC was their own. Nonetheless, the students’ perception was likely gleaned from the fact that 72 percent of the school’s Caucasian population is in the IS SLC.”
The report also found enough data to conclude that the accused teachers at North Atlanta did not change grades based on student race. Investigators focused on Grade Change Forms generated by the IS program. (Students do have the right to appeal their grades, under APS rules.)
“Of the GCFs that were analyzed during the investigation, 50 percent of the grade changes were Caucasian students; 31 percent of the grade changes were for African American students; 6 percent of the grade changes were for Hispanic students; 11 percent of the grade changes were for multiracial students,” the report says. “Based on the GCF data, there is no clear evidence that only Caucasian students had their grades changed. In fact, it appears IS SLC students of all racial backgrounds have had their grades changed. The trends on the GCF data are consistent with the breakdown of racial percentages in the IS SLC.”
The investigators concluded, “While it is evident that the (International Studies Small Learning Community) had more Caucasian students than other SLCs at NAHS, that fact is not enough evidence to establish preferential treatment. Therefore, based upon a review of the evidence gathered during this investigation, it has been determined that the preponderance of evidence does not support the allegation that the IS SLC received preferential treatment at NAHS.”
The finding is a vindication of former Principal Mark MyGrant and his leadership team. Last fall, APS officials removed MyGrant and the leadership team on a Friday afternoon. At the time, school officials blamed the school’s academic performance for the leadership overhaul. News of the investigation followed their removal and many parents wondered if the allegations made by students had anything to do with the leadership changes.
MyGrant is mentioned sparingly in the report. He contacted a student who posted a racial slur on an English teacher’s Facebook page. Investigators concluded MyGrant and his team took appropriate action in that incident.
The investigation makes clear that there is no evidence of discrimination or cheating by NAHS teachers or administrators.
Reporter Newspapers is still reading the report and analyzing its conclusions. Keep checking Reporternewspapers.net for more updates.