Amir Whitaker, a civil rights attorney with The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), on Thursday May 28th at the Fricker Center, presented his agency’s analysis of juvenile justice disparities in Escambia County School District (ECSD) including student arrests, suspensions, graduation rates, test scores, and teacher diversity. The SPLC is a private non-profit legal advocacy organization that issued the “Escambia County Report Card” that paints a picture of a school district that “is failing to meet the needs of Black students” as stated by Whitaker at the Fricker Center event.
The ECSD is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for its disciplinary actions that disproportionately impact Black students. The SPLC filed the civil rights complaint to begin the investigation into the district’s discipline track record. Amir Whitaker and Monique Gillum, Senior Community Advocate for SPLC were in Pensacola before educating the community residents on the information gathered on the ECSD in 2011-2012. The updated report included in the Escambia County Report Card depicted a school district actually doing worst in the new report.
For example, ECSD has higher suspension rates than 72% of Florida school districts according to the SPLC. Florida suspends more students than any other state in the nation, and Escambia exceeds the state average by 27%! The SPLC reports that Black students are five times more likely as Whites to be suspended numerous times. Additionally, with Black students only making up 35% of the students in the local district, they are given 65% of out-of-school suspensions, 76 % of district arrests, and 80% expulsions.
Malcom Thomas, the Escambia County School District Superintendent, could not be reached for comment due to end of the year graduations. However, the Pensacola Voice will bring his response to the SPLC and the report card as soon as he is available.