The U.S. Department of Education is investigating a complaint that the San Diego Unified School District is discriminating against minority students through placement and grading practices at some city schools.
The complaint also charges that teachers at three schools have refused to meet with parents who are complaining about such problems and have flunked the children of assertive parents as retribution.
The class-action complaint, filed July 10 with the Education Department's Office of Civil Rights, accuses the school system of violating the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 at Gompers Secondary School in Southeast San Diego, Madison High School in Clairemont and Standley Junior High School in University City.
Investigators must complete their review by Oct. 24, said C. Mack Hall, acting regional director of the civil rights office.
The complaint is another in a series of efforts by some black parents in Southeast San Diego to address what they claim is longstanding bias against their children at Gompers, a math, science and computer magnet school for grades 7-12. In June, black parents brought similar complaints to a U.S. Justice Department official, who is holding meetings between district administrators and unhappy parents.
But the complaint represents the first time that the district has been accused of such practices at Standley and Madison. Minority students are bused to Standley and Madison under the district's Voluntary Ethnic Enrollment Program.
Jose Gonzales, a school district attorney, said the city school system "is not engaging in any kind of discriminatory practice, and I would be very confident that the investigation would conclude that there has been no violation" of federal civil rights laws. He declined to discuss the specifics of the allegations.
But Betty Brown, a spokeswoman for the parents who filed the complaint, said it resulted from tensions between parents and Gompers teachers that surfaced in June. The names of the people who filed the complaint cannot be released because it is a class action, Hall said.
"After this mess came up with Gompers, there's a number of parents who began to network and agreed that they have similar problems at their schools," Brown said.
"What took place at Gompers had not just started this year, but had been going on since Gompers became a magnet (in 1978)," she added. "The minorities had been shoved to the back of the bus and they had had enough of it."
A school district report issued last spring concluded that there had been some "resegregation" at Gompers and that minorities were underrepresented in upper-level courses. But another report, issued July 25, showed that there was no bias in grading of white and minority students in Gompers' magnet program.
At all three schools, the complaint charges, the district applied "discriminatory criteria" in deciding whether to enroll minorities in special programs and which classes to place them in. The complaint also asserts that minority students were assigned to segregated physical education classes at all three schools.
The third allegation claims that black and minority parents who "assert the rights of their children" are "harassed" by teachers--who refuse to attend parent-teacher conferences, issue failing grades to the children and refuse to address complaints raised by parents.
The fourth allegation claims that minorities receive lower grades than whites in the same courses.