Cedar Rapids' State of Equity shows disparities in education, employment, housing

"We have to address our privileges, and I think that sometimes, we don't see it"

Published: February 4 2014 | 4:58 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:10 am in

Ken Morris Jr. found the numbers he heard Tuesday particularly interesting.

The data, presented by the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission Tuesday, stated that children of color in the Cedar Rapids Community School District disproportionately receive more in-school and out-of-school suspensions.

"It's so easy to kind of step out on the outside and look at those people and kind of consider them 'the other,'" said Morris, the manager of student equity in the office of learning and leadership at the Cedar Rapids Community School District as well as the African-American Fellow at Cedar Rapids-based Diversity Focus. "I think a lot of times, we have to do our own self-assessments and we have to address our own biases.

"We have to address our privileges, and I think that sometimes, we don't see it."

Sometimes, a child can misbehave simply because he or she is hungry, he added. For some, school may be the only place where they receive attention.

According to data in the report, titled State of Equity, children of color represent 22.8 percent of students in the Cedar Rapids school district. However, the same group accounts for 45 percent of in-school suspensions and 51 percent of out-of-school suspensions.

By contrast, white children represent 77.2 percent of the population in the school district and account for 55 percent of in-school suspensions and 49 percent of out-of-school suspensions.

Children of low socioeconomic status account for 46.2 percent of the district's population. They represent 80 percent of in-school suspensions and 86 percent of out-of-school suspensions.

English-language learners, who represent 2.9 percent of the school district, account for four percent of in-school suspensions and two percent of out-of-school suspensions.

The findings were presented as part of the first State of Equity in Cedar Rapids. About 85 people were in attendance for the 2 p.m. presentation at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. A second presentation was set for 7 p.m.

The findings were presented by John-Paul Chaisson-Cárdenas, executive director of the Civil Rights Commission. To compile the information, the commission brought together six committees in November and December of 2013. Eighty-nine individuals participated in the process.

On Tuesday, participants offered comments on the findings, which were presented on large poster boards.

The final State of Equity report will be published April 23, along with presentations and discussions about next steps, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in downtown Cedar Rapids.

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