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Minorities Face Harsher Discipline

09, Mar 2012

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Expanding on an early probe into the Los Angeles Unified School District, a new study out of the Department of Education shows that minority students, particularly Black and Hispanic students, are more likely to face harsher punishment than White students. Additionally, the study also found that teachers in working areas with a high concentration of minority students have less experience and are often paid less than other areas.

“The undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a briefing with reporters. “It is our collective duty to change that.”

According to a release from the Department of Education some of the key findings show that African American males are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than other students. They found that while Black students made up 18 percent of the students in the sample, they made up 35 percent of the total students that have been suspended from school at least once and 39 percent of those expelled.

While these disciplinary practices change from place to place, they still show the same trend of minorities facing harsher punishment. For example, in Los Angeles black students made up 9 percent of enrolled students, but 26 percent of those suspended. And in Chicago, black students make up 45 percent of the schools and 76 percent of those suspended.

Many activists and experts attribute these suspension rates to schools increasingly adopting ‘zero-tolerance’ policies in dealing with school violence. They feel that, more often than not, these policies apply more to minority students than white students.

“Those are extremely dramatic numbers, and show the importance of reinstating the civil rights data collection and expanding the categories of information collected,” Deborah J. Vagins, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office said to The New York Times. “The harsh punishments, especially expulsion under zero tolerance and referrals to law enforcement, show that students of color and students with disabilities are increasingly being pushed out of schools, oftentimes into the criminal justice system.”

One problem that could be contributing to this disparity, could be attributed to the quality of teachers teaching in schools with a high concentration of minorities. The study also showed that teachers in these areas received $2,251 less than other teachers, and tended to be younger and less-experienced.

Kwame Morton, a black principal at Joyce Kilmer Elementary School in Cherry Hill, N.J., explained that in order for this to change the first step taken will have to be to increase communication and understanding of the cultural background of the students.

“Unless people in the school have the mindset where they are going to love the students and be willing to work with the kids and nurture them and guide them and rehabilitate them and when they mess up continue to teach them …I think it’s going to be a continual cycle of just coming in, kids will do things, there will be harsh consequences and penalties, they’ll be gone for a while, come back and do the same thing,” Morton said to CBS News.

“It will never stop unless somebody breaks that cycle,” he added.

Tags: School District, Department of Education, School violence, Quality of teachers

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