A new report from the U.S. Department of Education found that almost three-quarters of students involved in arrests or other incidents handled by police are Latino or black, The Washington Post reports. “The sad fact is that minority students across America face much harsher discipline than non-minorities, even in the same school,” the paper quoted Education Secretary Arne Duncan as saying.
Why? Is punishment more severe for Hispanic and black students than white students for the same behavior? Or are Hispanic and black students committing more infractions than white students?
Duncan added that the department doesn’t allege “overt discrimination” in all of the cases. Some civil rights groups blame the “zero tolerance” behavior policies in place at many schools. The study noted that 29 percent of referrals to police were Hispanic and 37 percent of students arrested were Hispanic. The data were from 2009-10 and included a sample of 72,000 schools.
Do your schools have a racial gap in discipline and, if so, what are they doing to address it? In several districts I’ve covered, administrators have emphasized to teachers that they should keep misbehaving students in the classroom as much as possible and deal with the issues there instead of referring them to the principal’s office or an alternative school. In some cases, teachers–once told about racial inequalities–complained that they felt accused of racism if they referred minority students for discipline issues.
Meanwhile, The Post cites several civil rights groups who point the finger at schools. Raul Gonzalez, legislative director at the National Council of La Raza, said removing children from classrooms puts them in the pipeline toward prison and argued that less severe discipline should be meted out. “We’ve lost control of all judgment here, and it’s almost always a black kid or Hispanic kid” affected, Gonzalez told the Post.
You can find resources on the study here.