Racist Discipline Persists and the Immorality of Federal Response; The Latest GAO Study

There has long been an unwritten rule in school discipline-Black kids dis-proportionally and unfairly face the lash.  What is unspoken in most schools, is recorded in every study including the latest GAO study, which found that nationwide, 23% of Black students with disabilities were suspended in a given year…

Think about that…

And disciplinary disparities were universal, Black students were,

“the only racial group for which both sexes were disproportionately disciplined in every way: In-school and out-of-school suspensions, expulsion, corporal punishment, referral to law enforcement and school-related arrests”

Anyone who is looking and not blinded by bias knows this, I don’t need a report to confirm it.  But let me share the latest numbers in any event.  And also the latest federal attempt to stop looking at racial disparities, which given these numbers is troubling, equally troubling was the timing.

It is jarring, that on a somewhat holy day for civil rights, the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, a government report is released showing unambiguous violation of civil rights while the Trump administration is actively moving to reduce even collection and consideration of disparities in data based on race, much less enforcement.

You would think these folks would gag on their own hypocrisy.

I personally have been involved in far too many school disciplinary hearings, which led me to my “Two Real Rules of Expulsion Hearings” and this, like every study confirms what experience has taught me.

But let’s get to the study and federal response.

The GAO says

I am just going to pull this from Politico, they cover it well and the two stories are aligned,

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM THE GAO’S SCHOOL DISCIPLINE REPORT: The GAO released fresh evidence Wednesday that black students, boys and students with disabilities are all disproportionately disciplined in the nation’s public schools. The report, based on data from the 2013-14 school year, comes as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos mulls a repeal of Obama-era discipline guidance aimed at curbing such disparities. The numbers in the report are jarring. Black students by far bear the brunt of every type of discipline – from in-school suspensions to expulsions and school-related arrests. For example: While black students accounted for 15.5 percent of all public school students, they represented about 39 percent of students suspended from school. Here are some of the key takeaways:

– Boys overall were more often disciplined than girls, but the pattern of disproportionate discipline affected both black boys and black girls – the only racial group for which both sexes were disproportionately disciplined in every way: In-school and out-of-school suspensions, expulsion, corporal punishment, referral to law enforcement and school-related arrests.

– Minority students with disabilities are hit especially hard. Nearly a quarter – 23 percent – of black students with disabilities were suspended from school. More than 20 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native students with disabilities were suspended from school. More than 25 percent of students who identify as two or more races and have disabilities were suspended.

– Poverty is a factor: The GAO found that when there were greater percentages of low-income students in a school, there were generally significantly higher rates of all types of discipline. But black students, boys and students with disabilities were still disciplined disproportionately, regardless of the level of school poverty. And, as was the case in every type of school, black students bore the brunt of it. In high-poverty schools, they were overrepresented by nearly 25 percentage points in suspensions from school, according to the report.

– The disparities can be a drag on the economy . The GAO report notes that research has shown that students who are suspended from school are less likely to graduate on time and more likely to drop out and become involved in the juvenile justice system. “The effects of certain discipline events, such as dropping out, can linger throughout an individual’s lifetime and lead to individual and societal costs,” the report said. It pointed to one study of California youth that estimated that students who dropped out of high school because of suspensions would cost the state about $2.7 billion. Another study the GAO referenced estimated that Florida high school students who drop out earn about $200,000 less over their lifetimes.

MEANWHILE AT ED: DeVos is considering scrapping Obama-era school discipline guidance meant to curb racial disparities. The secretary on Wednesday heard from both supporters and opponents of the guidance, according to meeting participants from two separate closed-press listening sessions. Nathan Bailey, a department spokesman, said that no policy decision has been made on the guidance. He added that the department has held 11 other listening sessions on the topic. Wednesday’s discussions were the first in which DeVos has taken part, Bailey said.

– DeVos opened each of the meetings by noting the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and highlighting the continued need to achieve the full realization of his life’s work, the department said. “She discussed the clear problem, revealed both in the data and in the stories told, of disparate treatment in discipline,” according to a department readout. “She welcomed the participants to share their perspectives on how to best protect all students’ civil rights and promote positive school climates, and asked how the current approach is helping or hurting those efforts.” Mel Leonor has the full story.

It’s hard for me to write as I choke on my own vomit.

But we know we have no love from the feds, and even if they were behind us in policy, it still takes on the ground action to make rights real.  This work will be local, district by district, school by school, policy by policy, culture by culture, and we need data, accountability and support.

Well implemented restorative justice programs are powerful, ending suspensions for the most BS categories like “defiance of authority” work. And tracking racial disparities and making them a part of accountability as well as supporting staff in recognizing and combating bias and learning better ways to approach school culture can make a difference.

Change will only come when we make it.  On a holy day, in the face of injustice, we are deaf to not hear the call to action.



What do you think?

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