Examining the Roots of Racial Disparities in School Discipline

indianaNew research led by scholars at the School of Education at Indiana University in Bloomington shows that deep-seated racial biases contribute to widespread racial disparities in school discipline. The latest government data shows that Black students in the public schools are suspended or expelled at rates that are three and half times the rate for White students.

The authors write that “our history has left us with pervasive and false ideas about ‘races’ that have shaped our perceptions of who is valued and who is not, who is capable and who is not, and who is ‘safe’ and who is dangerous.'”

The authors conclude that “because we don’t discuss and then address the racial dynamics of our racially disproportionate discipline, racial disparities in discipline continue to worsen over time.” They recommend that “schools and districts will make the most progress if data open a door to reflective and critical conversations about the ways in which school processes, adult actions, and adult interactions with students may contribute to disciplinary outcomes.”

The paper, “You Can’t Fix What You Don’t Look At: Acknowledging Race in Addressing Racial Discipline Disparities,” can be downloaded by clicking here.

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  1. I am sad to see another disturbing report on inequities in school discipline. I appreciate the argument that a colorblind philosophy is not helping. Culture matters and educators are misunderstanding Black culture(s) and need extensive training to be more equitable and culturally responsive.

    • Re: Dr. Ford,

      The fact remains that racism in this country has a permanency that’s inculcated into the inner core and workings in this society. Until Black scholars(particularly those situated at HWCUs) have enough chutzpah to consistently address and counteract this proverbial White bully(i.e., intellectually, spiritually, legislatively, and even physically), the disparate treatment will continue unfortunately. For example, you stated that “educators have a misunderstanding of Black culture”. Yet, you failed to identify who you’re referencing.

      Due to the politically correct paradigm that has become part of the accepted norm in this country, this has prevented you from publicly identifying those who are the arbiters (i.e., White school public and private administrators) of this disparate treatment. Until the Black community can consistently expose the realities of American racism as being inflicted on “us”, we will continue to be the whipping board for White supremacy.

      As the noted intellectual warrior scholar Dr. Bobby E. Wright stated that “Blacks are the only people who don’t recognize that we’re in a war”.

      • Michael: I agree with everything that you have stated above in the instant case. I might add that the vast majority of people of African descent in the Diaspora suffer from what I call the Post Traumatic Delayed Stress Syndrome, which is more commonly called the “Slave Mentality.”
        The great First American, Chief Joseph said “An Indian respects a brave man, but despises a coward.”
        Africans in America have been in a war in English America since 1619 which has taken on different forms as events have evolved over period of time.
        Africans in the Diaspora have become so well educated in the dominate culture institutions that we think like white people, act like white people, behave like white people, analyze problems that are uniquely rooted in the Black experience in America through the lens and prism of a Black face with a white mask.

        Note the comments of Eric Garner’s daughter who just had her father murdered by the New York City Police.” I don’t believe race had anything to do with my father’s death.”
        How lost are we as Black folks who can’t even understand and know when we are being discriminated against? How many us really know what are the various forms of disparate treatment?
        Africans taken to Brazil resisted that harsh institution of enslavement since its inception and fought the Portuguese along with the indigenous inhabitants which was before the development of the Thirteen English Colonies.
        The African descendants of slaves in Brazil are still in protracted war against the so-called white ruling class in said country.

        • ronald saunders: absolutely. an example of experiencing life through a white reference point takes place in the public discourse surrounding the current economic situation in the united states. lots of handwringing by folks in corporate media with barely a mention that this “new economy” is the economy that most black folks and other people of color have had to deal with for many, many years.

      • Hi Michael, I think we are in agreement. I have written books and articles, and conducted workshops for over 20 years on issues such as this. And I have raised a Black son and family members… this is personal and professional. I did not mean to write extensively on this matter in this context/space. Thanks.

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