In a far-reaching national survey of how students of different races and students with disabilities are faring at school, the federal government reported Friday that widespread disparities exist in discipline practices, with students of color and students with disabilities subject to harsher penalties.

In addition, the newly released Civil Rights Data Collection allows the public to search for discipline and other data by school and district throughout the nation.

The harsher penalties start in preschool for African-American students, according to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which issued the report.

Black students represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment nationally but 42 percent of students suspended once, and 48 percent of students suspended more than once, the department found. The survey was the first analysis in 15 years of 97,000 of the nation’s public schools, representing 49 million students, the department said.

“Racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well-documented among older students, but actually begin during preschool,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement. “Every data point represents a life impacted and a future potentially diverted or derailed.”

Students with disabilities are 12 percent of the student population but represent 75 percent of students who were physically restrained at school and 58 percent of those who were put in seclusion or involuntary confinement, the department said.

The 2011-12 Civil Rights Data Collection confirmed what the Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative announced earlier this week. The collaborative issued reports that used a smaller data set from the Office for Civil Rights from 2009-10. Among those findings was the conclusion that there is no evidence that racial disparities in discipline – which occur most frequently for African-American boys – are due to higher rates of offenses or more serious misbehavior by those students.

The newly released data is the first time national information on preschool suspensions has been collected – and the figures are startling, noted Daniel Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project. “The whole purpose of preschool is to teach kids how to be successful in the K-12 system,” Losen said. “They’re not bringing guns or drugs to school. You’ve really got to wonder why are we suspending preschoolers.”

SHARE ARTICLE

Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments Policy

The goal of the comments section on EdSource is to facilitate thoughtful conversation about content published on our website. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

  1. James P. Scanlan 3 years ago3 years ago

    The DOE’s report illustrates how little the agency knows about racial differences and the dangers of relying on the government’s presumed expertise. Like other DOE documents, the report reflects the mistaken view that reducing adverse outcome will reduce relative demographic differences in those outcomes. Just as lowering a test cutoff tends to increase relative differences in failure rates, however, reducing any adverse outcome tends to increase, not reduce, relative differences in experiencing it.[1-3] Reductions … Read More

    The DOE’s report illustrates how little the agency knows about racial differences and the dangers of relying on the government’s presumed expertise. Like other DOE documents, the report reflects the mistaken view that reducing adverse outcome will reduce relative demographic differences in those outcomes. Just as lowering a test cutoff tends to increase relative differences in failure rates, however, reducing any adverse outcome tends to increase, not reduce, relative differences in experiencing it.[1-3] Reductions in discipline rates in California, Los Angeles, Denver, and Maryland all led to increased relative differences in discipline rates. DOE’s own 2012 report shows larger relative racial differences in expulsions in districts without zero tolerance policies than districts with such policies.[4-8]

    As usually occurs where adverse outcomes are rare,[3,9] racial disproportionately in multiple suspensions among preschoolers is large because multiple suspensions are rare among preschoolers (one-quarter of one percent). Similarly, disabled students comprise high proportions of those physically restrained because restraint is rare (14/100 of one percent). Reducing the outcomes will almost certainly increase the disproportionality.

    Few know these things, however. DOE is not among them.

    1. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/civil-rights/196543-things-the-legislative-and-executive-branches-dont-know
    2. http://magazine.amstat.org/blog/2012/12/01/misguided-law-enforcement/
    3. http://www.jpscanlan.com/images/Can_We_Actually_Measure_Health_Disparities.pdf
    4. http://jpscanlan.com/disciplinedisparities/californiadisparities.html
    5. http://jpscanlan.com/disciplinedisparities/losangelesswpbs.html
    6. http://jpscanlan.com/disciplinedisparities/denverdisparities.html
    7. http://jpscanlan.com/disciplinedisparities/marylanddisparities.html
    8. http://jpscanlan.com/disciplinedisparities/doeequityreport.html
    9. http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/244080771.html

  2. Andrew 3 years ago3 years ago

    Lots of choices for conclusions upon review of the "study" . . . 1. Are the plaintiffs in Vergara are right, tenure needs to be abolished, and the tenured teachers responsible for this racist "outrage" need to be culled from the system quickly and efficiently? 2. Maybe the tenured teachers responsible for this racist outrage are educable themselves with sufficient indoctrination in Maoist-type re-education camps, or sufficient introspection with self-purification, or something, and can be … Read More

    Lots of choices for conclusions upon review of the “study” . . .

    1. Are the plaintiffs in Vergara are right, tenure needs to be abolished, and the tenured teachers responsible for this racist “outrage” need to be culled from the system quickly and efficiently?

    2. Maybe the tenured teachers responsible for this racist outrage are educable themselves with sufficient indoctrination in Maoist-type re-education camps, or sufficient introspection with self-purification, or something, and can be rehabilitated and of some future use in education? The study seems to suggest that none of this is the fault of students or parents, so who is left to blame but teachers and administrators and their apparent racism?

    3. In the US, Blacks account for 12% of the US population and yet commit 52.5% of the criminal homicides in the county, with Blacks 8 times more likely to be homicide offenders than Whites and 6 times more likely to be victims. There doesn’t tend to be a lot of subjectivity involved in analysis of homicides as there might be in school discipline. Would we expect this ultimate disparity in commission of homicide offenses to have no parallel with unacceptable behavior in schools? Is there some way we can blame teachers/administrators for the ultimate homicide rate disparity also?

    4. Who in their right mind would be willing to teach disadvantaged and minority students in a public school setting when disparities in discipline and/or outcomes are scrutinized and ultimately essentially imputed to “racism” on the part of the school professionals involved? Who would be willing to impose any needed discipline on any member of such a student class when so much discipline is imputed to racism? What will be the ultimate outcome of such a lack of discipline on those who don’t receive it and learn that they are essentially exempt from it? Higher homicide rates?

    5. Some analysis shows that Black teachers refer Black students for discipline at significantly higher rates than they refer white students for discipline. Are we to infer that Black teachers practice racism also?

    6. Glad that I’m not a teacher. They certainly make great targets for all manner of blame for all sorts of problems, and for not doing enough and not being all things. My heart goes out to the fair, competent and caring teachers and administrators working in those tough fields.

  3. CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

    I'm curious: What percentage of preschools, or preschools in the study, are public? The San Francisco school district runs preschools, but I don't think it's the norm for school districts to do that. I know there are Head Start schools, but what else and what's the percentage? Also, it's not PC to even discuss this, but overall on average, challenges at school correlate with poverty and adverse childhood experiences; so do much higher rates of … Read More

    I’m curious: What percentage of preschools, or preschools in the study, are public? The San Francisco school district runs preschools, but I don’t think it’s the norm for school districts to do that. I know there are Head Start schools, but what else and what’s the percentage?

    Also, it’s not PC to even discuss this, but overall on average, challenges at school correlate with poverty and adverse childhood experiences; so do much higher rates of some maladies (such as asthma, diabetes and PTSD); so does being black or Latino. Should that be part of the discussion?