While policymakers and educators fret about ongoing achievement gaps for students of color, a new analysis finds that school policiesfor black, Hispanic, and American Indian students to stay in class in the first place.
The American Institutes for Research study draws on the most recent data, from the 2009-10 school year, from the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights. It finds that minority students are disproportionately excluded from school through a wide array of disciplinary practices: corporal punishment, suspension, expulsion, and even referrals to police and arrests. For example, compared to white students, black students were twice as likely to face corporal punishment; 2.5 times as likely to be suspended in or out of school or arrested in a school-related incident; three times as likely to be expelled, and four times as likely to face out-of-school suspension multiple times. Similarly, American Indian students were twice as likely as white students to be suspended out of school several times, expelled, referred to law enforcement or arrested, or face corporal punishment.
“At a school district and public policy level, people think that discipline and safety are the same ... but at the level of policy and practice, there’s a difference,” said David Osher, AIR’s vice president and an author of the analysis. “You can be safe and orderly in two different ways. It could be a very regimented environment, or ... it could also be safe because you are in a community where people care for one another, watch each other’s back, and act proactively to keep bad things from happening.”
A version of this article appeared in the November 07, 2013 edition of Education Week as Report Tallies Up Inequities in School Discipline Policies