New Department of Education Report Documents Huge Racial Disparities in School Discipline

New data released this week by the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education presents a wide range of statistics documenting racial disparities in discipline in the nation’s public schools.

Among the most startling figures is that Black students, who made up 18 percent of the students in the 72,000 public schools surveyed, were 35 percent of all students who were suspended from school once, 46 percent of all students suspended more than once, and 39 percent of all students expelled from school.

When we look at some of the nation’s largest school districts, we find that Blacks make up 9 percent of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District but accounted for 26 percent of all suspensions. In Chicago, Blacks are 45 percent of the students but made up 75 percent of the suspensions.

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  1. This study by the Department of Education appears to have been well done. However, I am left with the question, what’s the point of the research? These findings (e.g., African American students are overrepresented in–in and out of school–suspensions and expulsions) are longstanding. That is, African American students have been significantly overrepresented in suspensions and expulsions for decades. (And to suggest that the intent was to see if the problems are persisting is bogus; everyone knows the problems are persisting and not getting any better.) As Ron Edmonds suggested 30 years ago, Do we have the will to do anything about it? Unfortunately, there is not one simplistic explanation for this abomination. Increased parental support will help, additional funding for financially challenged school districts will help, culturally relevant instruction will help, a shift of more better prepared teachers to challenged school districts will help, more educators believing that African American students can learn will help, et cetera. The point is that the time for studying the problem has long past. Its time for everyone, including the Department of Education, to do something about it.

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