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Study Analyzes Discipline of Black Students in Southern States

Study Analyzes Disproportional Discipline of Black Students in Southern States

The Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education released a study in which all public schools in the thirteen Southern states were analyzed to find that Black students are consistently expelled and suspended at higher rates than peers across the region.

"Researchers Edward Smith and Shaun Harper found Black students were consistently suspended and expelled at higher rates than their peers across the region. This held true in urban, suburban, and rural districts, for both Black boys and Black girls," the Center said in a statement.

The study analyzed Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia and covered 3,022 schools to arrive at its conclusions.

The study chose to analyze disciplinary rates of Black students in Southern districts because while 1.2 million Black students are suspended nationwide annually, 55% of those students live in just thirteen Southern states. 50% of all expulsions of Black students are also from those same states and districts.

Specifically, the study found that many districts throughout the South had drastically disproportionate discipline of Black students versus peers.

For instance, "[i]n 346 districts, Blacks were 75% or more of the students suspended from public schools. In the entire state of Missouri, Black students represented 74% of the state's public school suspensions.

The study concluded similar findings when looking at percentages of Black students expelled from Southern public schools; "Blacks comprised 72% of expulsions from public schools in both Louisiana and Mississippi, which was the highest proportion among the states."

The full report includes district-to-district data from each state; the researchers hope the study will "equip anyone concerned about the school-to-prison pipeline and the educational mistreatment of Black youth with numbers they can use to demand justice from school boards, educational leaders, and elected officials."

The researchers also offer recommendations for improving disproportionate discipline of Black students not only in Southern states, but nationally going forward.

Said the Center in a statement:

The researchers' recommendations for improving equity in school discipline include:

  • Black families, religious congregations, and others concerned about racial justice must hold schools accountable and partner with educators to identify alternatives to policies and practices that sustain the school-to-prison pipeline.
  • Zero tolerance discipline policies do not make schools safer. School leaders need to eliminate them, offer more professional development for educators on managing student behaviors, and lead district-wide conversations about racial equity.
  • Teaching more about implicit bias and other racist forces that lead to disproportionately in school discipline must occur in schools of education, as well as other sites where teachers are prepared and educational leaders are certified.

Read the full report here.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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