Houston Forward Times

15 April 2014 Written by  Frederick H. Lowe

Zero-Tolerance Policies Turn Black Students into Zeroes

African-American students are suspended from pre-school at the highest rates.

Black boys are suspended from  high school at a much higher rate than other racial and ethnic groups. African-American boys and girls are suspended from the nation's public schools in greater numbers than any other racial and ethnic group even in preschool, according to U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights report released on Friday.
The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Justice Department reported that African-American students were 16 percent of the student population during the 2011-2012 school year, but black boys received 20 percent of out-of-school suspensions and black girls received 12 percent.
There were 1.9 million single out-of-school suspensions and 1.55 million multiple out-of-school suspensions. Some 130,000 students were suspended during the school year.
Black boys and black girls were suspended more than whites, Hispanics, American Indian/Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, Asians and students of more than two races, the report stated.
The information is detailed in a 24-page report illustrated with colorful charts and titled "Data Snapshot: School Discipline." The report covered the 2011-2012 school years with Civil Rights Collection Data from all 97,000 of the nation's public schools, 16,500 school districts, representing 49 million students.
This was the first time since 2000 that the Department of Education has received race, gender, and ethnic group data from all of the nation's public school districts, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan said during a news conference in Washington, D.C.
"The data released today reveals particular concern around discipline for our nation's young men of color, who are disproportionately affected by suspensions and zero-tolerance policies in schools," Duncan said.
Out-of-School Suspensions Benefit The Police
Out-of-school suspensions eventually benefit the police who are there to arrest people and the nation's prison system which locks them up, providing jobs to prison guards and administrators. "Suspended students are less likely to graduate on time and more likely to be suspended again. They are also more likely to repeat a grade, dropout and become involved in the juvenile justice system," the report said.
Black students represent 27% of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest. Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., wrote in an email to supporters that the law center has been "fighting the school-to-prison pipeline for years, bringing case after case to reform zero-tolerance policies that amount to a war on our nation's children."
Dees gave two examples of cases involving the Southern Poverty Law Center. The cases don't signal SPLC lawyers are representing Al Capone, John Dillinger or even Michael Corleone.

A school suspended a student in Mobile, Ala., for 50 days because his shirt was not tucked into his pants. To top that off, a 14 year old in Meridian, Miss., was locked up for several days because he had too many pockets on his pants, Dees said.
He noted that May 17 marks the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregation. He added, however, that the recent data shows that even after six decades, traces of Jim Crow linger. "And it's devastating to African- American communities, who see their children's futures cast aside as they are earmarked for dropout and incarceration," he Dees said.
Out-of-school suspensions of black students begin with preschool. Only 40 percent of public school districts offer preschool programs.
Preschool Suspensions
African-American students represent 18 percent of preschool students but 42 percent of first-time suspensions and 48 percent of students suspended more than once. "This critical report shows that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well-documented among older students, but actually begin during preschool," Holder said.
The study reported that African-American students represented 16 percent of the student population, but 32 percent to 42 percent of students suspended or expelled. In comparison, white students represented 51 percent of the student population and 31 percent to 40 percent of students suspended or expelled, the study reported.
The report noted that African-Americans are suspended and expelled at a rate of three times greater than white students. On average, 4.6 percent of white students are suspended or expelled compared to 16.4 percent of African-American students.


Black boys’ school experiences are often traumatic, causing high rates of depression, said Dr. Waldo E. Johnson Jr. of the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. The report lists out-of-school suspension rates for 49 states. West Virginia reported the highest out-of-suspension rate for African-American males at 32 percent. West Virginia was followed by Mississippi (27 percent), Illinois (27 percent), Massachusetts (26 percent), and District of Columbia (26 percent). North Carolina was the only state in a single digit for African-African male suspensions at 6 percent.
As for African-American girls, Wisconsin led the nation with a 21 percent out-of-school suspension rate. Wisconsin was followed by Michigan at 16 percent and Missouri was also at 16 percent. North Dakota reported the lowest out-of-school suspension for African-American girls at 0.0 percent. Georgia did not report its out-of-school suspensions. Find how your state, district and school rank among out-of-school suspensions at the searchable database.


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