Highland Community College Agrees to Reform Allegedly Biased Disciplinary Procedures

In 2022, three former coaches at Highland Community College (HCC) in Kansas filed a lawsuit against the college claiming that high-ranking administrators at the college pressured them to recruit fewer Black athletes. The lawsuit alleged Highland administrators sought to discourage Blacks from attending the school, intimidated Black student-athletes into leaving, and told coaches not to recruit African Americans. Two of the former coaches who were plaintiffs in the suit are Black.

Now, the U.S. Justice Department has announced a settlement agreement with Highland Community College to resolve the department’s investigation into allegations that Black students, primarily student-athletes, living on HCC’s main campus experienced discriminatory treatment in many aspects of campus life, including discipline, housing, and interactions with campus security officers. The complaints alleged that Black students were targeted for searches and surveillance and disciplined more severely than their White peers, resulting in their unfair removal from campus housing or even expulsion.

Under the settlement, the college has agreed to improve the fairness and transparency of disciplinary proceedings to prevent such discrimination. The agreement also calls on the college to strengthen policies, procedures, and training on campus security to promote consistent, non-discriminatory interactions between security personnel and students. In addition, the agreement requires HCC to strengthen policies, procedures, and training to ensure an effective response to students’ complaints of racial discrimination.

“When educational institutions are making decisions about student discipline, race and ethnicity are never relevant factors,” said Kate E. Brubacher, U.S. attorney for the district of Kansas. “Colleges and universities play a powerful role in shaping the development of young people, so it’s imperative that they help set the standard for creating environments where all students are treated with the same level of respect and fairness.”

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