Indiana NAACP Wants Probe Into School Discipline

The organization is urging state leaders to look at compelling data that shows Black students receive harsher punishments for less serious behavior.

Posted: 11/21/2011 12:08 PM EST
Filed Under racism, education, NAACP

Should bad attitudes get the same punishment as bullying? The Indiana NAACP thinks not.  

The organization is asking the state’s leaders to look into school discipline and examine the disparities that exist between the way Black and minority students and their white counterparts are disciplined.

The call to action comes after the group reviewed discipline data for one county and discovered that schools with the largest African-American populations suspended Black students twice as often than would be expected based on population.

In addition, the group also found that the Back students were often disciplined for “attitude problems” like insubordination, while white students were typically only disciplined for specific offenses such as drug possession or vandalism. Although a 2004 state law prohibits disproportionate discipline, its mandate is discretionary and does not require any specific action from schools to stem the problem.

Carole Craig, NAACP education co-chairman and former Indiana Public School principal, says that regardless of the law, schools should step up to the plate to ensure discrimination is not allowed to continue unchecked.

“There are dangers and cautions when you do have language that says ‘must,’ even though there are times we wish that would happen,” she said according to WIBC. “We want to be sure that children are well served.”

In addition to the suggestive legislation against discipline disparity, the state’s Department of Education provides a model disciplinary policy to be used as a guideline. However, schools are left to use their own discretion when it comes to the policy that is actually adopted.

Craig says that the NAACP is not asking for the legislation to be changed, but rather for schools to develop more awareness of cultural differences that can come across as disrespect. To assist in the process, she says that the organization has set up outreach programs in some schools to help students understand what behavior is considered acceptable.

(Photo: Earlham College)