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Report fails to determine whether BPS employees of color are discriminatorily ‘pushed out’

A long-awaited report has failed to determine whether race plays a factor in which BPS employees are placed on leave and disciplined, lawyers told the school board.

“Ultimately, based on a relatively small number of employees investigated — 37 in total — and the variety of misconduct alleged, we were unable to draw up a reliable conclusion as to whether and to what extent race factored into the paid-administrative-leave determinations or disciplinary outcomes,” said attorney Natashia Tidwell. “But we’re still able to make some observations and recommendation recommendations based on the data.”

In August 2022, BPS received a internal complaint from an employee noting a significant number of BPS administrators of color who were placed on leave in the 2021-2022 school year and requesting an outside review to determine whether there was a pattern of discrimination within BPS investigation and disciplinary action processes.

BPS hired the law firm Mintz, which tasked Tidwell with the review. The entire report and a presentation on the district’s planned response is available on the BPS website.

During the year, the lengthy timeline of the review has received frequent public pushback. Tidwell noted that the review “took longer than anyone anticipated” due to hitches in the data collection and thorough fact checking.

The investigation reviewed all BPS “administrators,” defined to include school heads and central office employees, who faced allegations of misconduct or were placed on paid administrative leave (PAL) between the school years of 2019-2020 and 2021-2022.

During the time period, 37 people fell into that category, the report states. One was Asian, three were Latinx, 15 were Black and 18 were white.

Averaged for the period, the presentation stated, about 53% of BPS administrators identified as people of color.

The report notes many variables related to the types and outcomes of the investigation, determining that the sample size and patterns do not allow for a “reliable conclusion.”

The report makes several recommendations going forward, including establishing criteria for PAL determinations, directly notifying employees of reasons for their PAL, tracking all misconduct complaint investigations, and regularly auditing these processes for trends.

BPS officials laid out steps to implement the recommendations and “threatened or pending litigation” related to the report were discussed in private session.

Despite the report, many speakers were not fully satisfied with the investigation, arguing there have been continued allegations of discrimination and a lack of engagement.

“While I appreciate Attorney Tidwell’s report and Superintendent Skipper’s response, a year later, we are still no closer to find out why experienced Black teachers and administrators feel they are being pushed out and marginalized in BPS,” said Black Teachers Matter Director Sharon Hinton.

Superintendent Mary Skipper noted any employee who feels they may have been subjected to discrimination may file a complaint with BPS and state offices.

“I am personally committed to creating a working environment where staff are trained properly, uphold high professional standards, are held accountable for their actions and are able to work and grow in an environment that is free from bias and retaliation,” said Skipper.

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