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MPS students voice concerns about racial disparities in schools

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – A group of Milwaukee Public School students marched into Thursday night’s school board meeting demanding racial equity.

These students want to call attention to a report from the Department of Education that revealed racial disparities when it comes to discipline at Milwaukee public schools.

MPS junior Joya Headley led the march at the MPS administration building and says she's witnessed what she calls discriminatory discipline first hand within MPS schools.

"I have seen many students get suspended for minor offenses like talking back or even security guards called to the classroom because a teacher can't handle a situation in the classroom,” Headley said.

And statistics from an Office of Civil Rights' report from the 2013-2014 school year back up Hadley’s account.

African Americans made up 55.1% of the student population, but according to the data, they made up 83% of in-school suspensions. African American students also made up 79.28% of out-of-school suspensions and 83.2% of expulsions.

"We were really alarmed that MPS was under investigation for a few years without informing the community,” Dakota Hall, Executive Director of the student-organizing group Leaders Igniting Transformation said.

Hall says when African Americans students are disciplined at a higher rate it puts them on a path called the "school to prison pipeline.”

"It is one reality of young black and brown students in Milwaukee where there are harsh disciplinary policies put onto them in terms of suspensions and expulsions that increase their rate of potentially going to prison,” Hall said.

The district responded to the report by the Department of Education with a list of corrective actions they are taking including the creation of disciplinary teams at each school to get feedback from parents and teachers.

Headley says by speaking out they hope to see change in the school system.

“The youth are the main ones affected by what hasn't been fixed throughout previous generations and I feel like it's my responsibility and the responsibility of by peers and my black and brown brothers and sisters to do something about the issues that affect them directly,” Headley said.

MPS officials say they will hold six meetings next month to address the issues.

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