Florence 1 Schools’ ‘zero-tolerance’ policy under investigation; NAACP releases statement

(WMBF News Oasis)
Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 9:37 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2022 at 9:51 PM EDT
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FLORENCE, S.C. (WMBF) - The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has launched an investigation into a zero-tolerance policy implemented by Florence Public School District One last year.

The zero-tolerance policy was passed Dec. 9, 2021 and the policy now provides school leaders the option to immediately expel a student involved in a physical fight on the school campuses.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE | Mother opposes FSD1′s new ‘zero-tolerance’ policy for school fights after daughter expelled

The Department of Education announced its decision to investigate on Sept. 8 in response to a Title VI complaint filed by the Florence Branch of the NAACP.

The Florence branch of the NAACP said the investigation comes after a nearly year-long battle against the district’s policy. The branch’s letter read:

“Despite clear and overwhelming disapproval from community members, Florence School District One School Board passed a zero-tolerance policy that made physical violence or fighting grounds for automatic recommendation for expulsion to the Board. Prior to the passage of the policy, the Florence Branch of the NAACP sent a letter to the Board and its members, highlighting its concerns about the harm such a policy would have on students, especially students of color. In particular, the letter raised the fact that there is overwhelming data suggesting that such policies fail to reduce violence and instead are disproportionately harmful for students of color. Despite these efforts, the policy moved forward and went into immediate effect. Almost immediately, the Florence Branch received numerous complaints from parents and students about the impact of the policy. The Branch quickly raised these concerns with the Board, Superintendent O’Malley, and State Superintendent Molly Spearman in a series of letters earlier this year.”

The NAACP filed the Title IV complaint on June 9, asking the DOE to investigate. The Florence Branch of the NAACP said it is continuing to work to further the investigation and monitor the enforcement and impact of the zero-tolerance policy.

“The Florence Branch is deeply committed to ensuring all students in Florence One have access to safe and equitable learning environments.”