A group of local community members tasked with studying inequality in the Killeen Independent School District’s disciplinary alternative education program presented its findings to KISD’s board of trustees Tuesday morning.
The task force was created by Superintendent Robert Muller to study the disproportionately large number of African-American males who are referred to the district’s disciplinary alternative education program.
Task force members included local representatives from the Killeen community, as well as district staff.
“There’s been growing concern,” Muller said. “When we look within our district ... we see an over-representation of certain students; African-American and male students (in DAEP).”
Texas education law mandates districts create and run DAEP programs for students who commit serious or repeated disciplinary infractions. Killeen’s DAEP programs are at Gateway High School, Gateway Middle School and Cavazos Elementary School.
According to data reported by the district to the Texas Education Agency, 755 of the 1,118 students referred to the DAEP program during the 2011-12 school year were African American, the most of any other racial group. During the 2010-11 school year, 754 of the 1,178 students placed in the program were African-American. Data for the 2012-13 school year not available from the agency.
“It’s a significant number,” Muller told board members. “This is an issue where I think we can do better. At the end of the day, that’s what this is about: How can we do better.”
The task force was formed in the fall of 2012. In that time, the members took a comprehensive look at the district’s discipline policy, examined data and conducted interviews with DAEP administrators, staff and students. Six members of the panel attended the meeting Tuesday to present a written executive summary of their findings, as well as offer recommendations on how to address the issue.
“It’s a very complex issue, and there are multiple factors that lead a child in going to DAEP,” said Otis Evans, a former Killeen councilman and member of the task force. “There’s no one silver bullet that’s going to resolve the issue.”
The first of the task force’s three major recommendations addressed prevention, and suggested campuses to set up intervention teams to review and recommend strategies and interventions for all students who are at risk for DAEP placement.
The district’s chief academic officer, Diana Miller, also a member of the task force, said the district would look at strengthening its disciplinary intervention procedures based on the recommendation.
“Our academic intervention program is strong, but our behavioral intervention is not as strong,” Miller said. “We’d like to strengthen that program.”
The second recommendation focused on ensuring that students who complete their stay in the DAEP program do not return. The task forced suggested the district create a DAEP “post-graduate training program” to prevent recidivism. Miller asked the district to explore implementing a resiliency curriculum in which students would be required to participate during and after placement in DAEP.
The third and final recommendation called on the district to require cultural diversity training to address educating and building relationships with children with various ethnic and racial backgrounds. Based on the recommendation, Miller said the district could consider holding diversity and cultural sensitivity training for staff.
While the recommendations were made to the district, panel members also stressed the role of parents and others outside of the schools had in keeping students out of DAEP.
“We can change things, but it’s going to take the entire community,” said TaNeika Driver-Moultrie, Killeen NAACP president and task force member.
Evans said the recommendations applied to all students in the DAEP program, not just black males.
“We found that it’s more than just that group of students, but all students,” Evans said.
Tuesday’s presentation to the board was for information only, but Muller said the district would work to address the recommendations of the task force. He also said the members of the task force would continue to play a role in the future.
“Their work isn’t necessarily over,” Muller said.