12-09-2022  2:40 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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NORTHWEST NEWS

Kwanzaa Returns In-Person to North Portland Library

For the past 20 years, North Portland Library has been hosting a community Kwanzaa event. After a two-year pause of in-person events, it's back.

NW Portland Store Allegedly Selling Psychedelic Mushrooms Raided

Witnesses say customers lined up around the block after a national story broke on the local business

Awash in Illegal Marijuana, Oregon Looks at Toughening Laws

So far this year, police have seized over 105 tons of illegally grown marijuana in Oregon. The grows use massive amounts of water in drought-stricken areas, contaminate the environment and employ migrant laborers who live in squalid conditions.

Merkley Introduces Bill to Ban Private Equity Firms from Predatory Housing Practices

End Hedge Fund Control of American Homes Act seeks to return single-family housing stock to families.

NEWS BRIEFS

Oregon Celebrates the 10th Open Enrollment Period Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Eligibility rules have changed, making health coverage more affordable for an additional estimated 40,000 Oregonians ...

Volunteers of America Oregon Receives Agility Grant From the National Council on Problem Gambling

The funds will support the development of a Peer Driven Problem Gambling Prevention Campaign targeting high school and college-age...

Commissioner Jayapal Invites Community Members for Coffee

Multnomah County Commissioner will be available for a conversation on priorities and the county's work ...

GFO African-American Special Interest Group Meeting to Feature Southern Claims Commission

The Dec. 17 meeting of the Genealogical Forum of Oregon will feature Shelley Viola Murphy, PhD via ZOOM. Murphy will discuss the...

Charter Commission Concludes Study, Issues Report

The Portland Charter Commission have concluded their two-year term referring nine proposals to the November 2024 election and...

Pricey pants from 1857 go for 4k, raise Levi's questions

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Pulled from a sunken trunk at an 1857 shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina, work pants that auction officials describe as the oldest known pair of jeans in the world have sold for 4,000. The white, heavy-duty miner's pants with a five-button fly were among...

Oregon store allegedly selling psychedelic mushrooms raided

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A store that had been openly and illegally selling psychedelic mushrooms in Portland, Oregon, was raided by police on Thursday, authorities said. In 2020, Oregon became the first state in the country to legalize the use of psilocybin for people 21 and older in...

Saxen's 19 help Saint Mary's knock off Missouri State 66-46

MORAGA, Calif. (AP) — Mitchell Saxen's 19 points helped Saint Mary's defeat Missouri State 66-46 on Wednesday. Saxen had six rebounds for the Gaels (7-3). Aidan Mahaney scored 13 points and Alex Ducas finished with nine points. Chance Moore led the Bears (4-5) in...

Purdue Fort Wayne takes down Southeast Missouri State 89-68

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — Jarred Godfrey scored 19 points as Purdue Fort Wayne beat Southeast Missouri State 89-68 on Wednesday night. Godfrey had eight rebounds and five assists for the Mastodons (6-4). Bobby Planutis scored 14 points, and Quinton Morton-Robertson had 13. ...

OPINION

‘I Unreservedly Apologize’

The Oregonian commissioned a study of its history of racism, and published the report on Oct. 24, 2022. The Skanner is pleased to republish the apology written by the editor, Therese Bottomly. We hope other institutions will follow this example of looking...

City Officials Should Take Listening Lessons

Sisters of the Road share personal reflections of their staff after a town hall meeting at which people with lived experience of homelessness spoke ...

When Student Loan Repayments Resume, Will Problems Return Too?

HBCU borrowers question little loan forgiveness, delays to financial security ...

Tell the Supreme Court: We Still Need Affirmative Action

Opponents of affirmative action have been trying to destroy it for years. And now it looks like they just might get their chance. ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

AP WAS THERE: Supreme Court legalizes interracial marriage

WASHINGTON (AP) — EDITOR’S NOTE: On June 12, 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court was wrapping up the final orders for the term. Among the cases before them was that of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who had been sentenced to a year in jail for violating Virginia’s ban on marriage...

Pennsylvania panel updates anti-discrimination regulations

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A state panel on Thursday narrowly approved new definitions of sex, religious creed and race in Pennsylvania's anti-discrimination regulations, with three members appointed by Democrats in favor and two Republican appointees voting no. The Independent...

St. Louis mayor appoints commission to consider reparations

ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones is appointing a reparations commission that will “recommend a proposal to begin repairing the harms that have been inflicted” by slavery, segregation and racism. St. Louis joins a growing list of places trying to determine how to...

ENTERTAINMENT

SF Conservatory buys Askonas Holt representation agency

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The San Francisco Conservatory added a major classical music agency to its commercial businesses, announcing Friday it was acquiring London-based Askonas Holt. Askonas' clients includes conductors Daniel Barenboim, Myung-Whun Chung, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Simon...

PHOTOS: The highs and lows of entertainment's 2022 comeback

After keeping the world at arm’s length for roughly two years, the entertainment world could finally get more personal again in 2022. Fans unfettered from pandemic restrictions flocked to film festivals and concerts to get glimpses of their favorite stars, whether Timothée Chalamet...

'Top Gun' named best film by National Board of Review

NEW YORK (AP) — “Top Gun: Maverick,” 2022's biggest box-office hit, has been named the best film of the year by the National Board of Review. Though the National Board of Review, a long-running organization comprised of film enthusiasts and academics, has no overlap or...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Club shooter's 2021 bomb case dropped, family uncooperative

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The Colorado Springs gay nightclub shooter had charges dropped in a 2021 bomb...

Croatia beats Brazil on penalties in World Cup quarterfinals

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Neymar is again going home without a World Cup title. Luka Modric's quest continues...

China struggles with COVID infections after controls ease

BEIJING (AP) — A rash of COVID-19 cases in schools and businesses were reported Friday in areas across China...

Tabloids fume, many in UK shrug over Harry and Meghan series

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s press erupted in outrage Friday at Prince Harry and Meghan’s documentary series,...

US keeps eye on China's space activities for potential risks

BEIJING (AP) — The U.S. is closely monitoring Chinese activities that potentially threaten American assets in...

Neymar ties Pelé's record but loses again at World Cup

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Neymar walked off the field with teammate Dani Alves by his side, tears still rolling...

Nadra Kareem Nittle, Special to the NNPA from America

President Obama with Education Secretary
Arne Duncan

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Education is seeking to improve the quality of education for minority and poor public school students by aggressively launching civil rights investigations aimed at preventing district administrators from providing more services and resources to predominantly white schools.

Faced with public schools more segregated today than in the 1970s, the department is using the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to improve the quality of education for students from minority and low-income backgrounds. The department has outpaced the Bush administration in initiating civil rights probes.

During 33 months under the Obama administration, the department's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has launched 30 compliance reviews compared with the 22 begun during the eight-year Bush administration. Investigators determine whether school districts have violated Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

"The civil rights laws are the most sorely underutilized tool in education reform and closing the achievement gap," says Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, who has run the department's OCR since May 2009. She said President Barack Obama has emphasized that he wants the department investigating education-related civil rights violations. "This is the most important civil rights issue of our time," she says.

Last year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced on the 45th anniversary of Bloody Sunday—the day that Alabama state troopers brutalized civil rights activists marching on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma—that the department's OCR would significantly increase enforcement actions. Duncan acknowledged that over the last 10 years, the office had not aggressively pursued Title 6 investigations to improve the quality of education for minority and poor students.

The OCR received about 7,000 complaints last year, a record for the department.School districts are being investigated for a range of possible violations, including failure to provide minority students with access to college- and career-track courses, not assigning highly qualified teachers to schools with predominantly minority students and disproportionately placing such students in special education courses and suspending minority students.

The OCR has also investigated schools for failing to protect female students of color from sexual violence and not offering access to higher-level math and science courses.

Judith A. BrowneDianis, co-director of the Advancement Project in Washington, D.C., which advocates for quality education, acknowledges a significant change in direction for the department's OCR. Ali served as deputy co-director of the organization from 1999 to 2000.

"For years, we couldn't rely on the federal government to enforce civil rights law, so now we have an Office for Civil Rights that is finally taking up the torch," Browne Dianis says. "During the Bush administration, we wouldn't encourage anyone to file a complaint. The feeling was that even if you filed a complaint, they probably wouldn't investigate or would say there was no racial discrimination."

Education Department officials express concern that a wide disparity exists between the achievement level of graduating white and African-American high school students in specific subject areas, such as biology and math.

 Data show that white students are six times better prepared than black students for college biology when they graduate from high school. White students are four times as prepared for college algebra as their black counterparts. Furthermore, white high school graduates are twice as likely to have completed Advanced Placement (AP) calculus courses as black or Latino graduates.

Addressing the statistics, Ali says the solution is not "just about adding more courses" but better preparing minority students in these subject areas. The civil rights investigations are forcing improvements.

 In South Carolina, the OCR has targeted school districts for concentrating AP courses at majority white high schools, robbing black students of the chance to take college-track courses. Because of the OCR probe, AP classes have become more widely available at majority black high schools.

Ali is also addressing the practice of assigning the least qualified teachers to poor and predominantly minority schools. By forcing school districts to end this practice, she hopes to narrow the achievement gap between whites and students of color, preparing more minority students for academically challenging courses.

The Education Department and education advocates are examining the higher percentage of minority students assigned to special education classes in many districts.

"Special education is another reflection of huge disparities," says Daniel J. Losen, senior education law and policy associate at The Civil Rights Project at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Losen says school administrators often use subjective criteria to place students in special education programs, resulting in a disproportionate number of minority students being removed from the general classroom setting. Moreover, Ali says the department is evaluating why white and Asian students are overrepresented in gifted and talented programs, while blacks and Latinos are overrepresented in special education classes.

Based on an NAACP complaint, the OCR is investigating the Wake County (N.C.) Public School System for planning to assign students to schools based on their neighborhoods of residence. Critics contend that the plan would kill diversity in the school system and concentrate poor students, effectively resegregating the district.

Ali says "housing patterns and the correlation between race and poverty" also cause resegregation of school districts. "The federal government is working to end that kind of resegregation," she says. "We're very much trying to end discrimination no matter where students go to school or who they go to school with, if they go to school with kids who look like them or to an integrated school."

Owatonna (MN) Senior High School is a case in point. The OCR received a complaint that the mostly white school had not acted sufficiently to stop racial harassment of East African students. When racial tension erupted in 2009 and white and Somali students brawled, school officials disciplined the African students more severely.

Due to the OCR investigation, Owatonna Public Schools agreed in April to take measures to prevent Somali students from being bullied. School officials issued an anti-harassment statement to students, parents and staff while training the school community on what constitutes discrimination and harassment, and meeting with Somali students to review their concerns.

The district must also submit annual compliance reviews to the OCR and the U.S. Department of Justice for the next three years. The case is the most recent race-related Title 6 investigation that the OCR has resolved.

The resolution was a coup for the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which filed the complaint on behalf of Owatonna's largely Muslim Somali population. Many Somali refugees have settled in Minnesota over the past two decades, and the state houses almost 40 percent of all Somalis in the United States.

Taneeza Islam, civil rights director of CAIR-MN, says none of the 30 CAIR chapters nationally had filed such a complaint. "We just took our chances," she recalls. "I had no idea how many cases they had and what their investigation findings looked like. Thankfully, we picked the right [presidential] administration to work with. The process has been really easy. It surprised us how proactive the investigators were."

Resolving the complaint took about a year, Islam says. Since the resolution, CAIR has heard no more concerns about treatment of East African students at Owatonna Senior High. CAIR-MN has also filed a complaint to stop reported harassment of Somali students in St. Cloud, Minn. That case, under investigation for 18 months, is pending.

The Owatonna situation exemplifies racial disparities that persist regarding discipline in public schools. For instance, the OCR has reviewed schools in North Carolina's Winston-Salem/Forsyth County system and Louisiana's St. James Parish for infringing on civil rights of black students by disciplining them more severely than other students.

"There's a national trend of students of color being suspended from school for minor actions," Browne Dianis says. "When we think about discipline, it was originally intended to cover violent acts." Data show that African-American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely to be expelled as their white peers.

Too often, Browne Dianis says, schools remove minority children from class for minor infractions such as tardiness or talking back to teachers. She adds that in today's schools, where standardized test scores are emphasized, a child can easily fall behind academically, and the likelihood of dropping out increases. "Once you drop out, the more likely you are to end up in the criminal justice system," she says.

In 2008, Browne Dianis worked with Baltimore schools on their discipline code to reduce the suspension rate. After the number of student offenses punishable by removal from class was narrowed, the suspension rate plummeted from 26,000 to 9,000 the following year, she says.

John H. Jackson, president and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, urges the OCR to address racial disparities in several education areas.

Jackson is concerned, for instance, that some local school districts remove unqualified teachers from poor schools but replace them with substitute teachers. He also says states must stop uneven funding of black and white schools.

"Look at how the revenue flows to districts and being based on property taxes, it creates an inherent inequity," Jackson says. "If you know the process for distributing resources is creating an inequity, there has to be a process that rights it."

He calls on the Education Department to withhold federal funding to enforce civil rights compliance, a tactic that the federal government used to help integrate public schools in the 1960s and 1970s.

Jackson applauded Ali for her leadership in re-engaging the OCR and examining racial disparities in U.S. education. "These disparities did not begin today," he says. "They have been here for the last five, 10, 15 years."

While Ali says the OCR's aggressive pursuit of civil rights violations is continuing the historic fight for racial justice begun decades ago, she cautions that the current racial opportunity gap could reverse gains of the civil rights movement.

"You can't give better to some than you do to others," Ali says. "That's not equity. That's a farce. It goes without saying that equity without quality is not equity at all."

(America's Wire is an independent, non-profit news service run by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. America's Wire is made possible by a grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. For more information, visit www.americaswire.org or contact Michael K. Frisby at mike@frisbyassociates.com.)

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