Civil rights complaint dropped against Flagler County Schools

By Jason Wheeler, Flagler County Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 9:50 PM EDT

Back in in 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a civil rights complaint against Flagler County's school system.

The complaint alleged that while black students made up 16 percent of the district, they accounted for 31 percent of all out-of-school suspensions.

Instead of fighting back, school leaders sat down with the SPLC to try to find a solution. And that solution was approved Tuesday night by the school board.

According to Amir Whitaker, an attorney for the SPLC, what this does is “create more preventions, more interventions and address the issue for all 13,000 students in Flagler.”

Flagler County was one of the last school districts in Florida to integrate in the early 1970s and there are still open wounds surrounding that.

Both sides believe this agreement goes a long way to try and heal those wounds.

“I think it validates some of the good work we're doing but it gives us an opportunity to grow,” said school board chairperson Colleen Conklin.

“I do think that we have made tremendous strides in fixing this and covering up some of the wounds,” said Flagler County NAACP head Linda Hayward.

Flagler County is not the only school system under the SPLC complaint but the organization hopes the deal struck here will get those other districts to start talking.

“Definitely" Whitaker said, adding, "we hope that they can see this as an example that coming to the table is an easy thing and we can work together.”

Whitaker said the goal is to end the practice of out-of-school suspensions in Flagler County.

If that is done, it will be one of the first school districts in the state to take such a move.

The Southern Poverty Law Center still has federal civil rights complaints against the school districts of Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa and Suwannee Counties.