Officials from the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights have confirmed that the office is investigating the allegations of disparate treatment of minority students at Arlington Heights High School made by the Rev. Kyev Tatum several months ago.
Recently, OCR attorney Tiffany Gray confirmed in a letter to Tatum that the office would “soon be conducting an onsite visit to the school district to review disciplinary and attendance files.” It also would be conducting some employee interviews, she wrote.
Investigators are now at the school going through files, said a former employee of Heights, who still works for the district but asked not to be identified. A teacher there who also asked for anonymity confirmed that some staff members have been interviewed.
The charges range from harsher disciplinary actions taken against black and brown students than whites, as well as discrimination in the area of attendance. Fort Worth Weekly first reported on the allegations of wrongdoing at Heights in August. Those allegations, later found to be valid by a district internal investigation, were made by former Heights assistant principal and whistleblower Joe Palazzolo and about a dozen teachers at the school. Palazzolo was fired last year but has recently won a reversal of the district’s decision to fire him and an order by the Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott, to conduct a new hearing. (See recent Blotch posts on this page.)
The allegations against Heights included charges of falsification of attendance records by high-ranking staff members including the principal, sexual harassment of teachers and students, and harsh disciplinary actions taken against a group of black and brown students involved in what witnesses described as a “riot” that was allegedly instigated by a group of white upperclassmen in the spring of 2010. No disciplinary measures were taken against the white students. This incident became the basis for the call by Tatum for an investigation.
Tatum also charged that chronically truant whites were allowed to make up absences in order to graduate while minority students were not. As head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference here, Tatum charges that there is a “historic double standard” in treatment of black and brown students within the Fort Worth Independent School District and said he hopes the Arlington Heights investigation will spread to the entire district.
Request for comments from the district were not returned. In earlier interviews, the district spokesperson Barbara Griffith denied all allegations of disparte treatment of minorities within the district. Minorities now make up the majority of Fort Worth’s students
Parents can call the SCLC at 817-966-7625 to set up an appointment to meet with federal officials, Tatum said.