Racial minorities and students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended from school, as per “National report highlights racial disparities in suspensions”:
- African American boys receive harsher penalties than white students for the same offense
- African American girls, Latino students (at middle and high school levels), Native American students and students with disabilities are also overrepresented in suspensions
- there is “emerging evidence” of disproportionate disciplinary practices involving English learners and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students
The effectiveness and appropriateness of suspension as a disciplinary tool is also suspect:
- Suspensions are most often used for conduct that is not a threat to safety.
- disparities are most pronounced for subjective offenses, such as insubordination or defiance
Further troubling is the consequence of receiving suspensions:
- Suspensions can lead to lower academic achievement, higher dropout rates and a higher likelihood that students will be arrested and incarcerated
Especially in light of more effective alternatives both for preventing and responding to discipline issues:
- Positive relationships among students, teachers and parents are more important than neighborhood crime and poverty at predicting school safety.
- interventions that improve the quality of academic instruction contribute to lower suspension rates
- schools with more diverse faculty and student bodies have fewer disciplinary issues
- The growing use of restorative justice in schools may help in these efforts because it increases opportunities for positive contact between races and helps teachers and administrators see students as individuals rather than members of a particular race
We need to work to understand differences, not shut them out.