A federal investigation into racially-biased discipline ended with a voluntary agreement in 2012 between the U.S. Department of Education and the Oakland Unified School District. The probe examined whether Oakland schools disciplined Black students more frequently and harsher than White students for the same misbehavior. Under the agreement, the school district promised to try a range of alternatives to traditional discipline.
Now developed is the Manhood Development Program under the auspices of the school district’s Office of African-American Male Achievement who oversees the program tasked with guiding Black students toward success and curbing disciplinary problems.
The Manhood Development Program was established in 2010 with the mission of decreasing suspensions, incarceration and the achievement gap—all while increasing attendance, graduation. Twenty schools in the district offer the program from the third-grade to the 12th grade.
The program’s full-credit elective, “Mastering Our Cultural Identity: African-American Male Image,” is part of the daily curriculum at 20 schools throughout the district. It focuses on developing a positive image of Black men and learning about Black history all taught by Black male instructors.
There are indications of success. Some of those indicators include a reduction in chronic absenteeism and suspensions for Black boys. Also, more than half the inaugural class graduated and are in college, with scholarships from the local nonprofit East Bay College Fund.