Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 10
Black Students Bear Uneven Brunt of Discipline, Data Show
Disparity in school
arrest rates rose
By Evie Blad
& Corey Mitchell
Black students continue to be
disciplined at school at disproportionate rates when compared to
their peers, even as U.S. schools
issue fewer suspensions, new federal civil rights data show.
T hose f indings come after
years of emphasis at the local,
state, and federal levels on reducing the use of exclusionary
discipline, such as suspensions
and expulsions. They also come
as U.S. Secretary of Education
Betsy DeVos considers rescinding federal civil rights guidance
designed to ensure schools are
administering discipline fairly
and to rein in disproportionately
high discipline rates for black
and Hispanic students, as well
as for students with disabilities.
Schools suspended 2.7 million
students out of school in 2015-16,
roughly 100,000 fewer than were
suspended in 2013-14. But black boys
still made up 25 percent of all students suspended out of school at least
once in 2015-16, and black girls accounted for another 14 percent, even
though they each only accounted for
8 percent of all students.
"We recognize that the issue impacts black children, period," said
Letha Muhammad, the director of
the Raleigh, N.C.-based Education
Justice Alliance. The alliance is part
of the Dignity in Schools Campaign,
a national coalition of civil rights and
student groups that favor removing
police from schools.
Muhammad, who is black, said her
children "should have the right to go
to public schools ... and not be treated
differently because of who they are
and where they come from."
Students with disabilities also
continued to be disciplined at
higher rates than their peers without disabilities. While students
with disabilities were 12 percent
of overall enrollment, they made
up 26 percent of students who
received at least one suspension
during the 2015-16 school year,
an analysis of the data by the U.S.
Department of Education found.
Black students and those with disabilities were also overrepresented
in school-based arrests, which increased in 2015-16, the data show.
Those figures mirror the discipline
gaps black students and students
with disabilities faced five years ago.
Although many policymakers and
civil rights groups agree the disparities are concerning, they disagree
about the root cause and whether
federal oversight is required to fix
it. Some conservative organizations
that have urged DeVos to scrap the
federal discipline guidance have said
some students may be more likely to
misbehave because of out-of-school
factors, such as the effects of pov-
school discipline in 2014, when it
issued civil rights guidance about
the subject. Citing previous court
rulings, that directive put schools
on notice that they may be found
in violation of federal civil rights
laws if they enforce intentionally
discriminatory rules or if their
policies lead to disproportionately
higher rates of discipline for students in one racial group, even if
those policies were written without
DeVos has met with supporters
and critics of the guidance as she
weighs whether to revise or rescind it.
Debate Over Police in Schools
BULLYING AND HARASSMENT
Bullying incidents with a sexual component or based on a student's gender far outnumber
other types of harassment.
Percentage distribution of allegations of harassment or bullying, by basis
SCHOOL-BASED ARRESTS, REFERRALS TO LAW ENFORCEMENT
Black students make up nearly a third of all students arrested at school or referred to
law enforcement, but only 15 percent of overall enrollment.
Percentage distribution of students referred to law enforcement
or subjected to school-related arrests, by race
Referrals to law enforcement
or school-related arrests 2
American Indian or Alaska Native
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino of any race
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
Two or more races
Note: Data may not add up to 100 percent due to rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, office for civil rights data collection, 2015-16
erty, that are more likely to affect
students of color.
Civil rights groups argue that
school discipline policies are often
meted out unfairly, even if they
weren't written with discriminatory
intent. They say teachers' implicit biases can cause them to more severely
judge the behaviors of black children.
And vaguely worded rules against
broad offenses like "defiance" are
open to subjective application, they
Civil rights advocates said that the
new federal data should come as no
"Schools are places where there's
tremendous amounts of discretion
with regard to when to call law enforcement. As a result, we end up
with folks who fear black kids, who
fear for their physical safety, fear
that they can't control their class,
or quite frankly, contempt [for
black children]," said Phillip Atiba
Goff, the president of the Center
for Policing Equity at the John Jay
College of Criminal Justice in New
"Anytime you have high levels of
fear and high levels of discretion,
you're going to end up with high levels of disparity."
10 | EDUCATION WEEK | May 2, 2018 | www.edweek.org
LEARN MORE ABOUT
THE CIVIL RIGHTS
4 Things to Know About Ed.
Dept.'s Massive Civil Rights
Chronic Absenteeism on the
Rise, Data Show
Suspension Rates Higher
for Students of Color With
Disabilities, Data Show
Nationally, black students made
up 15 percent of all public school
students in 2015-16 but 31 percent
of those arrested or referred to police-a disparity that has grown by
5 percentage points since 2013-14.
In the same vein, students with
disabilities represented 12 percent
of the overall student enrollment
and 28 percent of students who
were arrested at school or referred
to law enforcement in 2015-16.
"The consequence is that if you
have a physical or mental disability, you are much more likely to be
referred for discipline ... and to have
your life and career trajectory further curtailed by what should be" a
system that focuses on their education, Goff said.
Widespread and Persistent
A recent report by the Government
Accountability Office, which relied on
a previous set of federal civil rights
data, found that racial disparities in
school discipline "were widespread
and persisted regardless of the type of
disciplinary action, level of school poverty, or type of public school attended."
T he Oba ma administration
sought to ensure more equitable
Conversations about discipline
have become intertwined with
safety debates since a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed
17 people in February. Some conservative lawmakers, including
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., have
questioned if officials in the Broward County district should have
disciplined the accused gunman, a
former student, more harshly.
In the wake of the Florida attack,
some have also suggested increasing
police presence in schools.
But an analysis of the civil rights
data by Child Trends, a research organization, found that schools with
large numbers of African-American
students are more likely to have onsite security and law enforcement.
About 54 percent of middle
schools and high schools where at
least 75 percent of the student body
is black had a sworn law enforcement officer or security guard in
2015-16, according to Child Trends.
By contrast, such security personnel were found at 42 percent of all
high schools and middle schools
and at 33 percent of secondary
schools where enrollment was at
least 75 percent white.
Black secondary students were
also more likely than their white
peers to attend schools where security personnel outnumbered mental
health support personnel, like counselors, the analysis found.
While concerns about school safety
are often stirred up after major
shooting incidents, federal data show
that such events are relatively uncommon. Nearly 240 schools, about
0.2 percent of all those counted in
the newest data, reported at least
one school-related shooting. Those
shootings did not necessarily lead to
Fifty-five percent of schools reported no serious offenses during the 2015-16 school year, the
data show. Serious offenses include physical attacks, threats,
sexual assaults, and robberies.
About 1.1 million serious incidents
were recorded in the new federal
data, though serious errors have
been reported in some categories.
Physical fights without a weapon
were the most common offenses
Similar federal data, reported
earlier this year, found that student
vicimization from such incidents has
declined in recent years.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 2, 2018
Education Week - May 2, 2018
Why Raising Teacher Pay Is So Difficult
Where K-12 Salaries Lag Home Prices, Districts Try to Help
Museums, Teachers Team Up on Science
Disparities Grow for Students of Color, Federal Data Show
News in Brief
Teachers Reach Across State Lines For Help Planning Protests
Quality Crucial to Sustained Pre-K Benefits, Studies Stress
Pearson Tests Growth-Mindset Messages In Software
Spec. Ed.Community Assesses Legal Impact After Landmark Case
Florida, California Revamp ESSA Plans In Quest for Federal OK
Where Do States Line Up on Aid for Title I, Title II?
Mike Schmoker: Why I’m Against Innovation in Education
Nicholas Brake: Want to Support Public Schools? Stop Cutting Taxes
Donald Sheldon: I’m an Arizona Teacher. This Is Why I Walked Out
Ted Dintersmith: What’s Actually Going on in Classrooms?
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - Disparities Grow for Students of Color, Federal Data Show
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 2
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - Contents
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - News in Brief
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 5
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - Teachers Reach Across State Lines For Help Planning Protests
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - Quality Crucial to Sustained Pre-K Benefits, Studies Stress
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - Pearson Tests Growth-Mindset Messages In Software
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 9
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 10
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 11
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 12
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 13
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - Spec. Ed.Community Assesses Legal Impact After Landmark Case
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - Where Do States Line Up on Aid for Title I, Title II?
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 16
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 17
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - Nicholas Brake: Want to Support Public Schools? Stop Cutting Taxes
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - Donald Sheldon: I’m an Arizona Teacher. This Is Why I Walked Out
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - Letters
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 21
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 22
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - 23
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - Ted Dintersmith: What’s Actually Going on in Classrooms?
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - CW1
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - CW2
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - CW3
Education Week - May 2, 2018 - CW4