Federal investigation underway, parent blames district's unfair - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Federal investigation underway, parent blames district's unfair discipline for violence

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - A federal investigation is underway to determine if the Cedar Rapids Community School District's disciplinary practices discriminate against black students, and parents are looking with a very close eye.

"They're self esteem get so put down, and the children of African American decent just say heck with it, I'm just going to drop out. Why should I go to school when nobody believes what I'm telling them and it's the truth" said Mary Arenas.

Mary Arenas is a foster mother and has had several black students in the Cedar Rapids school district over the past 17 years.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is conducting an investigation that doesn't happen every day.

This week's federal investigation has representatives from the OCR visiting different schools and conducting interviews trying to determine if the school district is indeed discriminating against black students on the basis of race, when it comes to discipline, something Arenas says she's witnessed first hand.

"For my personal experience for the youth, I've had in my home, very, very unfair," said Arenas. "My boy was suspended for a week before Christmas break. I was called and they said he broke a window."

However she claims the school surveillance shows he did not do it.

Arenas says since black students aren't treated fairly or respected in the schools in Cedar Rapids, many turn to the streets and resort to violence.

"Go to the streets and then get into the detention center, turn to guns, turn to drugs," said Arenas 

According to the Cedar Rapids Community School District's deputy superintendent, Mary Ellen Maske, "The infraction, frequency of the behavior, and severity of the infraction guide our responses in disciplinary matters, not race. We dedicate time to review of the policies, procedures, and regulations in addition to investigation procedures on a regular basis with District administration."

The OCR would not give KWWL any indication of when the investigation will be completed or what happens after their representatives leave the district after September 25, since this investigation is still ongoing.

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