Black and Latino Students Suspended More Often

A report from the National Education Policy Center says taking kids out of the classroom doesn’t help discipline and hurts graduation rates.

Posted: 10/05/2011 01:51 PM EDT
Filed Under education, racism

Black and Latino students in public schools are suspended at rates much higher than their white counterparts — a practice that has no positive effect on student behavior or high school graduation rates, says a new report by the National Education Policy Center.

Nationally, 28 percent of African-American male middle school students and 16 percent of Latino male middle school students are suspended each year in contrast to the 10 percent of white male middle school suspensions, according to the study, Discipline Policies, Successful Schools and Racial Justice.

The report dispels myths about the behavior of Black and Latino students and suggests that one cause for the high number of suspensions among the minority students is the result of discretionary behavior on behalf of disciplining adults rather than student behavior. In one set of data from North Carolina, the report found that African-American first-time offenders were more likely to receive suspension as their punishment than white first-time offenders.

"I think there is a growing movement to say, 'Wait a minute, we can do better,'" Daniel Losen, author of the study, told USA Today.

The increased suspensions are linked to higher dropout rates and heightened risks to students’ mental and physical well-being, says the report. Losen calls on educators and legislators to get serious about the problem of rising and disproportionate school suspensions. The report suggests that the rate of out-of-school suspensions should be one of several factors considered in assessments of school efficacy, and asks civil rights enforcement agents to change the standard of legal review used to evaluate and seek justice for unjust and unnecessary suspensions.