Growing up black, I have always felt and noticed that blacks kids got into trouble for the smallest infractions. Yes, we cut up sometimes as all kids do. But it was as if we were being watched all of the time. And so other kids that did the same things were getting away with it. And to me, it just felt as if the punishments were harsher. When I was in school, our school was probably 30% to 40% black…..but I swear the black kids were getting into most of the trouble. So that was my unscientific and probably biased observation.
And when my son was in elementary school, I had that same feeling. He attended majority white elementary schools. When I picked him up from the after school program I thought, why are all of the black kids (mostly males) in time out? Are black kids more unruly than the other kids? Are they being watched more? Are they being punished more?
Tell me, I am not the only Black person/parent that has ever felt this way.
Well I came across this study that was released by The Civil Rights Project (CRP) that shows that disparities in school discipline are harming black students. The report was taken from 2009-2010 data from K-12 students from 7,000 school districts representing every state in the USA.
The report shows that African American students and students with disabilities are at a greater risk for being given out of school suspensions as punishments.
National suspension rates show that 17%, or 1 out of every 6 Black schoolchildren enrolled in K-12, were suspended at least once. That is much higher than the 1 in 13 (8%) risk for Native Americans; 1 in 14 (7%) for Latinos; 1 in 20 (5%) for Whites; or the 1 in 50 (2%) for Asian Americans.
Is out of school suspension really the key, if the child’s behavior is not dangerous or disrupting the school’s processes? The report says no and it is particularly harmful to students that are already at risk for dropping out. Studies show that suspensions increase the probability of dropping out or worse incarceration. Given that our society is known for disproportionately incarcerating African American males, I would say that we need to challenge our schools to find better solutions.
This report has sparked a lot of debate and conversation around the web. There are some that believe that African Americans are getting suspended more because they are more unruly and disruptive than their counterparts of other races.
Do they have a point? I have personally witnessed African American teachers quit their professions because the kids were just plain out of control.
The report ends with recommendations of things we can do as parents and child advocates to address this issue such as: asking your school districts to start collecting data on suspensions (as it was found that many school districts don’t), more training for school personnel, and challenging school districts that high suspension rates and inequitable disciplinary practices to find better solutions.
But as a parent, I found that the best thing I can do for my child is be present and active. I am involved in the school by volunteering and I am involved with my children’s education by helping with homework and projects. My involvement lets the teachers know that they have my support, and it lets them know that I am looking out for my child; And I am not standing for any mess. It lets my kids know that even though I am their advocate, I am not supporting any mess from them either. So if you are caught cutting up, you are in trouble at school and at home.
BMWK family - Check out this study. I want to hear from you. Are out of school suspensions necessary? Are they getting out of control? What are some better alternatives?