Office of Civil Rights Now Investigating Redistricting

U.S. Department of Education OCR determines investigation of discrimination complaints appropriate.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is now officially investigating whether Gwinnett County Public Schools discriminated against African American and Hispanic students in recent redistricting of Duluth and Peachtree Ridge Cluster attendance zones.

“According to our Office for Civil Rights, the case is now under investigation,” Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the federal Education Department, reported Friday (May 20). “OCR is investigating whether the Gwinnett County School District discriminated against African American and Hispanic students by redrawing its attendance zones for the Peachtree Ridge and Duluth Clusters on the basis of race and national origin in noncompliance with the regulation implementing Title VI,” Bradshaw said.

“As you may know, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in all programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance,” he said.

Bradshaw also reported that two complaints alleging discrimination filed with OCR in April have been merged. The second was folded into the first complaint, he said.

The complaints challenging the redistricting were filed April 18 by Duluth parents. OCR had been evaluating the complaints to determine if they were appropriate for investigation.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education voted April 21 to redistrict a total of 505 students from schools in the Peachtree Ridge Cluster into the Duluth Cluster to relieve overcrowding in Hull Middle School and Peachtree Ridge High School in the Peachtree Ridge Cluster. The redistricting included shifting three apartment complexes and two extended stay hotels near Gwinnett Place Mall from the Peachtree Ridge Cluster to the Duluth Cluster. The redistricting would go into effect with the 2011-12 school year.

The first complaint alleged that the GCPS discriminates against low-income and minority students because the redistricting prevents students from attending Peachtree Ridge High School in the more affluent Peachtree Ridge Cluster. The complaint further alleged that the redistricting would impose an undue burden on already poorer Duluth High School in the Duluth Cluster, while protecting Peachtree Ridge High School in the wealthy area from an influx of poor and minority students.  

The second complaint, now part of the first complaint, alleged that the Gwinnett school system discriminated on the basis of race and national origin because it selected 450 underprivileged Hispanic and African-American children to move from an affluent school cluster to an already overburdened poorer school.

"We have not seen the complaint, but are confident in our redistricting
process," responded Sloan Roach, executive director of communication and media relations for Gwinnett County Public Schools.

Now that the investigation is underway, the OCR will begin gathering information to determine if the school system is in compliance with civil rights laws, according to Bradshaw. This may involve site visits and talking to individuals, he said, and may take six months or longer depending on the complexity of the allegations. If the OCR determines that civil rights laws were violated, it would attempt to negotiate an agreement with the school system to bring it into compliance. While in virtually all cases the OCR is able to reach an agreement, Bradshaw said, it does have enforcement options. 

Under the federal Privacy Act, the OCR is prohibited from disclosing the names of complainants in its cases. Lynne Sycamore, who identified herself as among “a handful of parents” that filed the first complaint with the OCR, told Duluth Patch previously that they hoped to make the GCPS go back to the table and redraw the lines to balance enrollment in the clusters and eliminate discrimination against low-income and minority children. 

Several parents at public hearings and forums during the redistricting process asked the school board to use socio-economic data to balance enrollment in the clusters. GCPS officials repeatedly emphasized that GCPS does not consider socio-economic factors in redistricting. Parents also appealed to GCPS to address overcrowding in other schools in both clusters.

For more information on how OCR handles civil rights complaints, visit http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintprocess.html.  






Annette Rogers May 24, 2011 at 02:09 AM
I'm well over 40, white, middle class ... just like each and every single member of our school board. Our board votes unanimously on all big issues (occasionally they may agree to let one member vote against) and do not always reflect their constituents who are not as white, nor rich, nor powerful. The problem is much bigger than one cluster's redistricting. There are only 5 school board members. Dan Seckinger (the one that was jailed for not paying child support?) has 6 high schools in his district. Murphy and Radloff are acting more like parrots than board members and do little more than smile, wave and vote yes to anything Alvin says. McClure may actually think he's a good man, but he publicly belittles others and I just haven't seen him act like the Christian he proclaims to be. Boyce may be okay, but she's outnumbered. I propose that 2 (or more) districts be added in 2012, term limits be set, and a system of oversight and accountability be established.
Amanda Helmstetter May 24, 2011 at 02:17 AM
I AGREE ANNETTE!!!!! (And you don't look a day over 35!) More board members, term limits and oversight needs to be created... I'm as anti-government as you can get.... but these folks are not keeping our children's best interest as their main objective.
Annette Rogers May 24, 2011 at 02:37 AM
1. 10 years ago, the area around Gwinnett Place Mall was "snuck" into the PR cluster. At the time it was almost entirely business. However, when objections were made that the students in the area could attend Chesney Elementary we were told that it was more feasible to transport to Mason/Hull/PRHS because of the "traffic patterns" and the students would be bused against traffic. Many did not see it as a coincidence that the area was being considered for an "Atlantic Station" type development as a transportation hub. 2. In the past few years, there has been at least one petition and multiple verbal requests from the Peachtree Ridge Cluster to get rid of "that area". I think GCPS thought there might be people that would recall "traveling against traffic" or other reasons given for why the Gwinnett Place Mall area should not go to Duluth that they had them going to Harris (which displaced Harris students to Chesney). Since nobody brought up the old mall debate, they sent the mall area to Chesney.
I love Duluth May 24, 2011 at 05:06 PM
From what I understand, the petition went around the Peachtree Ridge Cluster during December '09, right after the new boundary lines were drawn for Mason, Parsons and Burnette and people at Mason realized the poverty rate % was going to go up. I hope the OCR gets their hands on it because it is obvious this is what drove this redistricting in the first place.
Clarity May 24, 2011 at 09:49 PM
Warren, I suggest that your underlying problem is that you just can't see anything, because you are too busy fawning over MR. Wilbanks and the motley bunch who call themselves our community's leaders and educators. And I would also put into that group the previous leadership of Gwinnett County's Board of Commissioners. All corrupt, grasping, greedy, and pandering to big money influences who have caused easily documented "White Flight" in Gwinnett County. Warren, if you want to continue to listen to, and believe in, a bunch of self-serving and rich-serving, power-hungry "leaders" good luck. My money is on the Office for Civil Rights, because they WILL get the illustrious Gwinnett County Board of Education to listen --- something the voters of Gwinnett County have not been able to do. And oh, by the way, Warren, is your name really Alvin???


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