On Tuesday, the U.S. department of Education will release new data about school discipline. According to a preview of the results in the New York Times, black students are three and a half times as likely to be suspended or expelled as their white peers.
The data was collected from the 2009 - 2010 school year, from 72,000 schools around the country, and covered kindergarten through high school-aged students.
The data is part of a federal effort to address and problem solve around the "school-to-prison" pipeline, and the connection between getting in trouble at school and dropping out or being incarcerated at a young age. The data shows that the "pipeline" is disproportionately affecting students of color. The Times reports that over 70 percent of school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement were for Hispanic and black students.
Diana Tate Vermiere of the ACLU of Northern California spoke with us earlier this week about exclusionary school discipline practices saying, “We’re talking about the citizens of today and tomorrow. We need to be developing them, bringing them along and ensuring that they have access to education. The overuse of discipline that excludes them from school, that alienates them from school - leads to higher rates of dropout or push-out of school, is denying them their fundamental right to an education. It is most certainly a civil rights issue of today, of the past, and frankly of the future.”
Kavon Jones, 18, goes to Envision High School in Oakland, CA, and is no stranger to school discipline. He said he was in detention three to four times a week, every week during high school, but said he was too stubborn to change his behavior. A detention at his school could quickly progress into more exclusionary punishment. “If you didn’t go to detention, say if you got 30 minutes and you didn’t go-- it turns into an hour, and after you miss that hour, you get a referral. And when you get three referrals, it results in a suspension for three days,” he explained.
An organization taking a closer look at these issues is the Advancement Project, a nonpartisan, civil rights organization that focuses on issues related to the school-to-prison pipeline. They connect the escalation of suspensions and expulsions to the high-stakes testing movement and the implementation of No Child Left Behind.
In a report called, “Test, Punish and Push Out,” the Advancement Project says that there were almost 250,000 more students suspended in 2006 - 2007 than there were four years previous, when NCLB was signed into law, and during that time, expulsions increased 15 percent.
The report explains:
Because of the focus on test scores and the severe consequences attached to them, if a student acts up in class, it is no longer in educators’ self-interest to address it by assessing the student’s unmet needs or treating the incident as a “teachable moment.” It is much easier and more “efficient” to simply remove the child from class through punitive disciplinary measures and focus on the remaining students.
Stay tuned for more coverage of school discipline in the U.S. and what young people have to say about it.