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Classroom conflicts

EDUCATION | Discrimination complaints hit a record high

Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Classroom conflicts
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The U.S. Department of Education received a record number of discrimination complaints from schools and colleges last year. During the 2022 fiscal year that ended in September, the agency’s Office for Civil Rights fielded almost 19,000 complaints over alleged violations of federal law protecting students and adults from discrimination, according to a New York Times report. The rise, which broke the 2016 record of 16,000, could suggest either an increase in discriminatory treatment or an expansion of polarized views on sexuality and race into classrooms.

The most common complaints centered on the treatment of students with disabilities. Resolved cases in states like Colorado and Arizona referenced reports of ­students with special needs being relegated to run-down trailer classrooms or facing disproportionate discipline, the Times said. Some complaints described racial bullying of black and Asian students. The Education Department will release its annual report detailing the findings later this year.

Some analysts blame the increase in complaints on escalating political disagreements. Multiple complaints came from conservative groups such as Parents Defending Education, which has outlined ­concerns that school events such as a “Students of Color Field Trip Opportunity” further racial discrimination. The year saw an increase in complaints that referenced discrimination over gender identity or sexual orientation.

Civil rights complaints had shrunk during the Trump administration after officials established stricter reporting requirements.


School nurses wanted

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, some school ­districts are struggling to staff nurses’ offices. School officials in Massachusetts said almost 300 school nurse positions—or over a tenth of the state school nurse workforce—remained vacant at the beginning of January.

The problem comes amid a more widespread shortage in the nursing profession. In 2017, a survey by the National Association of School Nurses found that a quarter of schools did not have a school nurse before the pandemic. As schools returned to in-person ­learning, contact tracing requirements contributed to burnout in the field.

According to the Wisconsin Association of School Nurses, some school nurses in the state are responsible for up to 4,000 students. Wisconsin’s state Department of Health Services last fall announced an $8.3 million grant toward school nurse and other health employee staffing. —L.D.

Lauren Dunn

Lauren covers education for WORLD’s digital, print, and podcast platforms. She is a graduate of Thomas Edison State University and World Journalism Institute, and she lives in Wichita, Kan.


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