FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Racially-Biased Suspensions in Public Schools

Trayvon Martin was shot to death in Sanford, Fla. He was there visiting his father while suspended from school. He was suspended last month after school officials claimed to have found marijuana “residue” in his book bag. No actual contraband was found; no arrest or citations were issued by police.

When news of the suspension was leaked, Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, was understandably outraged. “They killed my son,” she said, “and now they are trying to kill his reputation.” But in part because the man who killed Trayvon remains uncharged and at large, the leak served mostly to shine a glaring spotlight on the racially skewed suspension policies in our public schools.

Early last month, the U.S. Department of Education released a report on school equity issues that revealed that minority students face “much harsher discipline” than whites in our public schools. African Americans were more than 3œ times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students. More than 70 percent of students arrested or handed over to law enforcement in school were black or Hispanic.

Chicago’s schools rank among the worst in racial discrepancy. African-American students represented 42 percent of the Chicago Public School enrollment in 2009-10, but 76 percent of students receiving at least one out-of-school suspension that year. African-American students were five times as likely to be suspended as their white classmates.

Students from Voices of Youth in Chicago Education calculated that students lost a stunning 306,731 days of school last year due to out-of-school suspensions. VOYCE made the common sense conclusion: Public schools are too quick to suspend, particularly for nonviolent incidents, and too seldom talk out problems with students.

“We need a discipline code that works for all students, not one that sends black and Latino students a path to prison,” said Victor Alquicera, a Roosevelt High School student. (The protests have had an effect, with expulsion rate dropping 43 percent compared to last year, according to school officials.)

Alquicera has it right: five- and 10-day suspensions are brutal punishments. They put kids on the street. They put them behind in class work. They label them for trouble. There is a range of positive interventions that could be done — including personal meetings, restorative justice, classroom management and a range of in-school discipline. The vast bulk of the suspensions are for disruptive, nonviolent behavior. These are kids in need of discipline, not in need of suspension.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan admitted he was “troubled” by the data.

“The undeniable truth is that the everyday education experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise,” he said. “It is our collective duty to change that.”

We have moved to a multiracial society, but we have not moved beyond disparate treatment.

It is time to revisit the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; it has been noticeably absent in this crisis in Sanford. In the great legacy of Theodore Hesburgh and Mary Frances Berry, I would appeal to the president to take this opportunity to reconstruct and revitalize the commission and charge it once more with investigating discriminatory practices, rousing public concern and forcing the pace of reform.

The effort to diminish Trayvon Martin’s reputation succeeds only in raising questions about whether young African-American men can gain equal protection under the law.

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail