Report: Racial Disparities in School Discipline

These disparities were widespread and persisted regardless of the type of disciplinary action, level of school poverty or type of public school attended
— Government Accountability Office report

According to federal data released on April 24, black students faced higher rates of suspension, expulsion, and arrest than their white classmates.The Civil Rights Data Collection, which contains detailed information for the 2015-2016 school year on more than 96,000 public schools, offers more evidence that certain young people — including Black, Hispanic male and American Indian students — face harsher discipline than their white counterparts.

Though it’s been reported that school suspensions have decreased, about 2.7 million suspensions were given out in the 2015-2016 school year. That number is only 100,000 less than those handed out two school years prior. On the other end, the number up of students referred to law enforcement and arrested on school grounds or at school activities went up to 291,000 in the 2015-2016 school year, up about 5,000 from two years prior.

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At the time, Black students accounted for 15 percent of the student body, but 31 percent of arrests. These statistics are scarily similar to the percentage of Black people in jail vs. the number of Black people in the general population. Students with disabilities are also more likely to be suspended or arrested at school. These students made up 12 percent of students but 28 percent of all arrests and law enforcement referrals.

This news comes shortly after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced she is considering decreasing the department’s role in investigating racial disparities in disciplinary practices.

We know from many other studies that there are no discernible differences in the way that black students behave in school compared with other students
— Kaitlin Banner, Attorney

“The facts are in black and white for all to see: Racism is alive and well in our American school system,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the national office of the Advancement Project, a civil rights group. “This data clearly shows that black students are less safe, more restrained and pushed out of school more than other students. We need to see the Department of Education commit to the vigorous defense of students’ right to be free from discriminatory school discipline.”

“We know from many other studies that there are no discernible differences in the way that black students behave in school compared with other students," said Kaitlin Banner, an attorney with the Advancement Project. “The disparities come from the way that adults in the school building are responding to the student behavior.”

A report from the Government Accountability Office released in April shows similar data.

“These disparities were widespread and persisted regardless of the type of disciplinary action, level of school poverty or type of public school attended,” the GAO report said.