High suspension and expulsion rates driven by discriminatory, ineffective school policies

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“All children deserve access to a quality education, but too often, children of color are pushed out of the classroom, not because they’re behaving any worse than other students, but because of harsh and often discriminatory school disciplinary policies,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis who is a member of the Collaborative. “While the notion of a post-racial society is aspirational in theory, racial discrimination in school discipline is a major problem.”

Citing data from the U.S. Department of Education, the Collaborative said more than 3 million students in grades K-12 were suspended during the 2009-10 academic year, reflecting a steady rise since the 1970’s when the suspension rate was half that level. “Research shows the best way to create a positive school climate is to foster trusting, supportive relationships between students and adults in the school,” Browne Dianis said. “And when misbehavior does occur, it should be addressed through constructive and equitable “restorative justice” policies that give students an opportunity to learn from, and make amends for, mistakes. We should focus on problem-solving instead of just handing out penalties.”

In releasing its findings, the Collaborative published three briefing papers, each addressed to a different audience: policy recommendations for district, state and federal officials; effective discipline alternatives for school personnel, and a description for researchers of recent studies and urgent, unanswered questions that should be addressed. Among the findings:

There is no research support for the theory that schools must be able to remove the “bad” students so the “good” students can learn. “In fact, when schools serving similar populations were compared, those schools with relatively low suspension rates had higher, not lower, test scores.”

Given the extreme differences in suspension rates across different groups, the researchers concluded that unintended teacher bias is a possibility. “Several studies indicate…that racial disparities are not sufficiently explained by the theory that Black or other minority students are simply misbehaving more.”

(Article taken from Advancement Project news release.)

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