Are disciplinary actions always fair across different races? Are harsher punishments for minority students perpetuating a school-to-prison pipeline?
We’ve heard it for years — but now, it seems like we’ve finally got the data to see it spelled out. According to data gathered by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, suspension/expulsion rates are not doled out equally across races/ethnic groups. In a recent article published on Yahoo!, the data is summed up as the following:
Data from 72,000 American public schools in the 2009-10 school year, for example, show that while African-Americans make up 18 percent of the students in this large sample, they account for 46 percent of students suspended more than once, 39 percent of students expelled, and 36 percent of students arrested on campus.
White students, by contrast, represent 29 percent of multiple suspensions and 33 percent of expulsions – but 51 percent of the students.
With the number of suspensions almost tripling between 1976 and 2006, officials are starting to question the necessity of the punishment for things that were once considered “typical adolescent behavior.” In addition to speculation on excessive suspensions and expulsions, officials have speculated that the popular “zero tolerance” mentality has “led to what they call a ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’ and the implications of this unfair, even draconian, disciplinary system are enormous.”
Is it a fair conclusion derived from fact or a hasty assumption regarding a “chicken or egg” scenario? Is this a cycle that is self-perpetuating or is it a product of a system ingrained with racial bias? Is it fair to assume that increased numbers of school suspensions correlate to higher levels of imprisonment? Is it fair to assume the opposite?
Photo: ★ Cleo Chabrou © ★/Flickr