Author Topic: One Strike and They’re Out  (Read 1215 times)

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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One Strike and They’re Out
« on: September 19, 2010, 08:11:15 am »

September 18, 2010
One Strike and They’re Out

Schools are right to expel students who carry weapons or who otherwise pose a safety threat. But they have taken “zero tolerance” to extremes, suspending ever larger numbers of children for merely disruptive or nonthreatening behavior. Suspension rates for black male children are disproportionately, devastatingly high.

A new report published by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that in 2006, more than 30 percent of black male middle school students in 15 urban districts were suspended from school. In Milwaukee and Florida’s Palm Beach County, suspension rates for black males were said to exceed 50 percent.

Based on federal school data, the research found that the percentage of students suspended at least once in grades K through 12 has nearly doubled over the last four decades — to 6.9 percent in 2006 from 3.7 percent in 1973. The suspension rate for black children in that time jumped to 15 percent from 6 percent.

The racial disparities in middle schools were especially alarming. In 2006, 28 percent of black boys and 18 percent of black girls were suspended, compared with 10 percent of white boys and 4 percent of white girls.

The data does not include why children were suspended. But previous studies suggest that an overwhelming majority of all races are suspended for behavior like truancy, disrupting class, abusive language or getting into shoving matches.

The federal suspension data is not comprehensive — which means that the real situation is likely worse. School reports to the federal government do not reflect multiple suspensions, so that students who may have been thrown out 10 times were counted as having been suspended only once.

The federal government clearly needs to do a better job of collecting information on this issue and pushing the states and localities to fix the problem. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights should also look at the districts with the worst racial disparities.