From The Christian Science Monitor: School Suspensions: Does racial bias feed the school-to-prison-pipeline?

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I was listening to a conversation on the radio this morning about school suspensions and how statistics are revealing that students of color receive harsher sentences than students who are white for identical or similar infractions.

The discussion centered around this piece written by Stacy Teicher Khadaroo from the Christian Science Monitor entitled “School Suspensions: Does racial bias feed the school-to-prison-pipeline?” which explored this very important question.

I wanted to share the article with you in hopes that you’d join the conversation here or start conversations offline as well.

“School Suspensions: Does racial bias feed the school-to-prison-pipeline?”

Rocketing school suspensions may feed the school-to-prison pipeline – and even violate civil rights.

Two students set off fire alarms in the same school district. One of them, an African-American kindergartner, is suspended for five days; the other, a white ninth-grader, is suspended for one day.

•An African-American high-schooler is suspended for a day for using a cellphone and an iPod in class. In the same school, a white student with a similar disciplinary history gets detention for using headphones.

•Two middle-schoolers push each other; the white student receives a three-day, in-school suspension, while the native American student is arrested and suspended, out of school, for 10 days.

Civil rights groups have been saying for years that school discipline is not meted out fairly, citing examples like these reported last year from around the country by the US Department of Education.

High rates of suspensions and expulsions for certain groups – particularly African-Americans, Hispanics, and those with disabilities – are evident in data gathered nationally by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

Data from 72,000 American public schools in the 2009-10 school year, for example, show that while African-Americans make up 18 percent of the students in this large sample, they account for 46 percent of students suspended more than once, 39 percent of students expelled, and 36 percent of students arrested on campus.

White students, by contrast, represent 29 percent of multiple suspensions and 33 percent of expulsions – but 51 percent of the students.

School leaders have to maintain a safe environment for learning, and about 4 in 10 teachers and administrators surveyed recently by Education Week said out-of-school suspensions and expulsions are an effective way to do that. Some expulsions have even been mandated by law, particularly when a student brings a gun to school.

Yet increasingly, “we’re seeing suspensions for things that used to be considered typical adolescent behavior and were dealt with in less harsh ways within the school system,” says Jim Eichner, managing director of programs for the Advancement Project, a national civil rights group in Washington.

While opinions differ about whether student behavior has become more disruptive or dangerous, the number of suspensions has grown dramatically in recent decades.

After doing some additional reading, I found that Stacy has also written an article on a Restorative Justice Program that I think can add more to the conversation of the first article.

Ubuntu,

From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW

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I'm a Social Worker, Educator, and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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