Chicago, IL

Beecher School District Fails to Investigate Racial Harassment Reports According to Illinois State Board of Education

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

OCR finds Beecher School District in Southland Chicago failed to take reasonable steps to stop/ prevent harassment from occurring and address negative effects of harassment on students
Photo byUSAG Humpreys/flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Beecher Community Unit School District 200U, located in Southland Chicago, has come under scrutiny for failing to adequately investigate reports of racial harassment within its schools. The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently revealed that the district did not take reasonable steps to prevent a Black student from being subjected to racial harassment during the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years.

The investigation conducted by OCR found several instances of racial harassment targeting the Black student. These incidents included the use of gratuitous images of the Confederate flag in classroom presentations, a Snapchat message containing racial slurs, and a white student identifying himself with a racial epithet during a classroom activity. Additionally, there were allegations of ongoing harassment, including the frequent use of racial slurs, racial epithets used on an online platform, and white students shaking the school bus as Black students exited.

The district's failure to address these incidents and conduct proper investigations was a cause for concern. OCR identified that Beecher School District did not consider the totality of the circumstances and cumulative effects of the racial harassment. The district also did not take appropriate measures to prevent the harassment from recurring or to remedy the impact of the harassment on students.

As a result of the investigation, Beecher Community Unit School District 200U entered into a resolution agreement with OCR to ensure compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The agreement outlines steps the district must take to create a non-discriminatory environment for its students. These steps include conducting prompt and thorough investigations into allegations of racial harassment, offering compensatory education and counseling to affected students, and providing reimbursement for documented private educational expenses incurred by the harassed student.

Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon emphasized the importance of addressing and preventing racial harassment in schools. She stated that the agreed-upon steps are designed to fulfill the promise of a nondiscriminatory learning environment for the entire Beecher Community Unit School District 200U.

The resolution agreement between OCR and the district signifies a commitment to rectify the shortcomings in Beecher School District's handling of racial harassment complaints. By implementing the necessary measures, the district aims to ensure that all students can learn and thrive without facing a hostile environment based on their race.

“The important steps Beecher Community Unit School District 200U has agreed to take to address and prevent racial harassment are designed to ensure that their full school community will learn in the nondiscriminatory environment federal law promises to them,” said Lhamon.

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