The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights said that it will investigate allegations by the Anne Arundel branch of the NAACP that the county's school system discriminates against African-American students when meting out discipline.
The office's March 29 decision came in response to a formal complaint filed last year by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that accused the school system of subjecting African-American students to different treatment than other students regarding discipline referrals, suspensions and expulsions.
In 2004, the NAACP joined with a consortium of community organizations in bringing a similar complaint, which resulted in a 2005 memorandum of agreement mediated by the U.S. Department of Justice and signed by NAACP and county school officials.
"Eight years later, the numbers haven't gone down," said Carl O. Snowden, director for civil rights in the state Office of the Attorney General, who was part of the group that filed the 2004 complaint. The civil rights body filed the second complaint after expressing concern about the school system's progress in addressing the initial one.
"This particular new complaint ... will hopefully provide some leadership around this issue," Snowden added.
County schools spokesman Bob Mosier said that the system received a copy of the complaint Tuesday, and added, "We're in the process of looking at what is contained in this letter now."
He added that the school system has been examining discipline data and sanctions.
"Certainly we will work with the Office of Civil Rights with regard to this response and the things they ask for in" the complaint, Mosier said. "But it's important to note that an examination of the data and the disparities is something we've already been doing before the complaint filed by the NAACP and before this response from the office of civil rights."
Jacqueline Boone Allsup, president of the Anne Arundel NAACP, said that the group met last year with school Superintendent Kevin Maxwell. She said that Maxwell "talked about policies that they were going to look at or put in place and assured us that he would not tolerate any disparities against any children in the school system.
"What I hope happens," Allsup said, "is that once the investigation is completed by the U.S. Department of Education that there will be programs or policies put in place to prevent any further discrimination, if it's found, against African-American students who are treated differently in disciplinary referrals, suspensions and expulsions."