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Detroit Part Two: Feds Launch Investigation into Florida School District after Black Schools Continue to Fail

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Campbell Park Elementary

The Federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation this week into a Florida school district — Pinellas County — to determine if there is discrimination against Black students.

According to reports by Florida news outlet WFLA, five failing elementary schools in St. Petersburg are the subject of the pending investigation. Students attending those schools reportedly lack adequate supplies and access to proper courses, programs, and extracurricular activities.

The schools are: Campbell Park Elementary, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose. The Federal Department Office of Civil Rights will be investigating the matter for the next six months.

Last year, former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan criticized the school district, blaming officials for the education malpractice because of the district’s actions eight years ago, when the Pinellas School Board decided to abandon integration. In a series last year called “Failure Factories,”  The Tampa Bay Times reported on the five  failed schools. As the schools became less diverse — or more Black — good teachers left and violence spiked according to their findings.

This crisis has been going on for quite some time. The school district spokeswoman, Lisa Wolf, told WFLA that Black students are succeeding, contrary to the news of the investigation. Black graduation rates are improving, and Black students are being enrolled in gifted and advanced placement classes at higher rates, she said.

”I think I would want to say to parents that we’re taking this issue very seriously and we feel we have a plan in place to address their concerns,” Wolf said.

This news is reminiscent of the current education crisis in Detroit, where majority Black schools are also failing. Atlanta Black Star reported on the current state of Detroit Public Schools, which has been under state control since 2009. DPS has cultivated a $515 million operating debt, adding to its overall debt of more than $3 billion. Many Black schools have mold, rat and roach infestations.

The Pinellas school board will conduct a workshop on April 12 to discuss various plans of action to turn around the five schools and $25,000 worth of bonuses. Some are also throwing out the possibility of longer school days. The school district will also use the aid of an outside consultant.

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