There have been wide-ranging studies and data on the significantly higher rates of suspension and expulsion of African American K-12 students compared to Whites and students from other ethnic groups. But two studies, led by a researcher at the University of Missouri, finds that differences in misbehavior and negative attitudes cannot explain why Black students are suspended at higher rates.
Francis Huang, an assistant professor of education examined data from two studies; one a national survey of high school students and a survey of high school students in Virginia. Dr. Huang found that, although some differences existed among races in certain types of misbehavior, these differences could not explain the disproportionalities in suspension rates.
“Student attitudes and actual misbehaviors are very strong predictors for whether a student will be suspended, which means that suspensions are not entirely arbitrary,” Dr. Huang said. “Regardless of race, students who expressed aggressive or negative attitudes toward school, their teachers and their peers were much more likely to be suspended than students with more positive attitudes or who did not engage in misbehaviors such as fighting at school, drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. However, the reported attitudes supporting these misbehaviors were very similar for both Black and White students, despite Black students being suspended more.”
Dr. Huang recommends that “schools find alternatives to suspensions as they hurt students’ abilities to succeed academically. The more school students miss, the farther behind they fall in their school work and the more likely they are to get into trouble. It is a vicious cycle. Schools can take steps to lessen the need for suspensions by implementing interventions that reduce aggressive behaviors and attitudes, since those are the most likely reasons why students are suspended.”