Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Complaint filed against Denver School Board

Colorado Latino Forum Denver Metro Chapter
Files Administrative Complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Against Denver Public Schools Board of Education, Mary Seawell President
Denver - The Colorado Latino Forum (CLF) Denver Metro Chapter, whose mission is to increase the political, social, educational and economic strength of Latinas and Latinos, requests relief for Latino students in Denver Public Schools District 4 (D4) under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities that receive Federal funds or other forms of Federal financial assistance. 42 U.S.C. § 2000d.
CLF Metro Denver Chapter asserts that there has been an act of discrimination on the basis of race against Latinos as a group, in the activity of selecting a school board member to fill the remaining the D4 position vacated by Nate Easely on January 18, 2013. Under state law the position must be filled within 60 days of Easley’s resignation.  We claim specifically that qualified Latino candidates were excluded by an arbitrary and capricious process within a school district that is comprised of nearly 60% Latino students.

1.    Qualified Latinos have been intentionally and discriminatorily excluded from the finalist pool.
We believe the discrimination occurred with the exclusion of all qualified Latino applicants on Feb 4, 2013 when the finalists were named during a hastily convened school board meeting. None of the nine finalists from a pool of twenty-five included a Latino. One highly qualified but rejected Latina candidate was Dr. Barbara Medina who was the Assistant Commissioner for Innovation and Transformation at the Colorado Department of Education where she directed the Language, Culture and Equity Unit.
Today political favoritism has been the determining factor in the BOE appointment process resulting in board members failing to take into account the rapidly growing Latino student population, a majority being English Language Learners or Spanish bilingual speakers. D4 extends from northeastern Denver in Montbello through the Green Valley Ranch and Stapleton neighborhoods through areas north of Colfax.
2.  The selection process is arbitrary and capricious.
The appointment process by which the finalists were chosen is arbitrary and capricious. Although no one person engaged in overt discrimination based on race, the process as it was designed without fairness safeguards resulted in a discriminatory result which disadvantaged all Latino applicants. All public school students deserve better than political favoritism that does more to build-up the careers of some, rather than the further the interests, hopes and aspirations of our next generation of leaders. 
3. There is no avenue to have the complaint of discrimination resolved within the appointment process.
Neither BOE’s institutional grievance process nor state law under C.R.S. 22-31-129 (2), (3), (4), afford a process to have a complaint of discrimination resolved with respect to an appointment process. The appointment is within the sole discretion of the board president, Mary Seawell, who has been unresponsive to our repeated requests for resolution (see attached). It is our understanding that we are not required by law to use the institutional grievance procedure before filing a complaint with OCR.
4.  Without intervention of OCR, the interests of public school Latino students and families will be adversely impacted, a negative natural consequence of the discriminatory act.
Without the intervention of OCR, we believe that the interests of public school Latino students and families will be adversely impacted, a negative natural consequence of the alleged discriminatory act. It is common knowledge that the appointee, as an incumbent, will have a competitive advantage during the November board election. Latinos who have been excluded by this discriminatory process will have an unfair disadvantage for winning the seat for the next four to eight years.
It is unjust that Latinos, the overwhelming majority of DPS students in District 4, are being deprived of an opportunity to have a Board representative that reflects the culturally-specific needs of their community. Considering that more than half of the 28,800 students are Latino, 27 percent black and 16 percent white, there is a glaring disparity of representation among the finalists, current school board and DPS administrators.
5.   We request that OCR swiftly intervene in the appointment process before irreparable harm occurs.
The relief we are requesting is as follows:
1.    Add a qualified Latino to the finalist pool before the March 18th appointment deadline.
2.   Conduct an investigation by OCR to determine whether there has been a violation of Title VI.
3.    Facilitate a mediation meeting between the parties in an attempt to obtain voluntary compliance.
4.    If voluntary compliance cannot be obtained, we request that OCR initiate enforcement action, either by referring the case to the Department of Justice for court action, or by initiating proceedings before an administrative law judge.
Contact Information:

Rudy Gonzales, Co-Chair
CLF Denver Chapter
c/o Colorado Latino Forum
309 W. 1st Ave.
 Denver, CO 80223
 Phone: 303-722-5150
Mary Seawell, President
Board of Education
Denver Public Schools
900 Grant St. Denver, CO 80203
Phone: 720-423-3210


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