Minority Students Receive Harsher Punishments At School

A new study suggests that minority students are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school for minor violations than white students. Daniel J. Losen, the author of the report, argues that “the students who miss class time for misbehavior are at a greater risk for missing out on educational opportunities,” and that punishments such as suspension and expulsion are “meted out disproportionately among students of different races, genders, and ethnic groups.”

Losen analyzed 2006 data from the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights and found that “more than 28 percent of African-American middle school boys had been suspended at least once, compared with 10 percent of white males nationwide. For girls, it was 18 percent of black students, compared with 4 percent of white students.”

Losen’s study adds to the national conversation about whether suspension and expulsion are appropriate punishments for students who misbehave in school. Students who have been suspended in the past are more likely to drop out of school entirely, and suspensions have become more common in the past few years as many schools adopt “zero-tolerance” policies, which can cover anything from drug possession to cell phone usage.

In fact, Education Week found that dress code violations and cell phone possession were common reasons for suspensions in North Carolina during the 2008-2009 school year, even for first-time offenders. “For possessing or using a cellphone at school, almost 33 percent of first-time black middle school offenders were suspended, compared with 14.5 percent of white students.”

When suspension is one of the biggest indicators of whether or not a student will drop out of school, it seems that this extreme form of punishment should be saved for more serious violations. Suspension or expulsion is mandated by law if, for example, a student commits a violent act at school. But the punishments for minor transgressions are decided by individual school districts.

Educators should carefully consider what constitutes a basis for suspension or expulsion, and examine the reasons for the high numbers of minority students that receive these punishments. So many middle and high school students are already at risk for dropping out– the last thing we need to do is help push them out the door.

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Photo credit: Editor B


Jay Hem
Immigrant I AM6 years ago

The only difference from the 60's to now is that its 2011.... but the racism is still here... people just hide behind their comments on computers and don't express it as bluntly like then...

Lilithe Magdalene

Same is true for the prison systems - not surprising to hear the racist act of criminalizing starts so young.

Daniel Lopez Mongay

Racism is far from gone in this society. Sad news, but a good study to start a change.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers6 years ago

Cameras in schools. Digital Cameras are cheap enough that we could do that, as the saying goes, 'a picture says a thousand words' well video says even more especially when it has sound.  That way we can find out who the real troublemakers are, individually, not by race, though we will be able to compare infringements and punishments and parents will be able to appeal against what they see as racist and/or classist discrimination. Bad Teachers would probably hate it, transparency being the enemy of people trying to hide. And the teachers union would freak! And try to obfuscate the issue citing the civil rights of teachers and pupils, because change' often means more work and accountability and the fear that teachers and schools may get sued by the pupils and parents they have failed.
Meta R. Very nice, someone who is not just spouting ideologies and has taken the time to think about a punishment that fits the crime. Suspending and expelling children should not be an option, teachers yes, because schools are primarily there for children and their education should remain the priority.

Richard Zane Smith

Because of the deep seated and often invisible presence of racism in the USA
it would not surprise me if these are common statistics everywhere. Here in this area ,certain Native American families inherit a "reputation" and so when their kids come into the school system they are already pegged for life. Sometimes its just easier for a kid to live up to whats expected of him/her...and that really is sad.

Zeke? did you think Thomas is for real?

I'm pretty sure he's playing the obvious bigot just exaggerating the ignorance of racism just to show how foolish it really is. I though he made his point well. reminded me of the drunk white racist on To Kill a Mockingbird!...remember? "..my LouEllen...!"
but He was pretty convincing !

Fred H.
Fred H6 years ago

Studies also show that boys receive harsher punishment than girls for the same infractions. But, politically correct "outrage" is very selective, isn't it.

Nance N.
Nance N6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Zeke Springer
Ezekiel Springer6 years ago

@ Terry K. - I don't think your comment makes you racist. I think you just missed the point of the article.

What the article is trying to say is that at the same rate of violation, minority students are receiving harsher punishments. So for example using a cell phone in school, the article is trying to say that the white student might just get it taken away for the day while the minority student is getting sent to detention or suspended.

Zeke Springer
Ezekiel Springer6 years ago

Thomas, Thomas, Thomas,

Hmmm, where do I even begin with you? I don't know where to start. Your comment explains everything about you; high level of ignorance, typical racist tendencies, poor upbringing, past disruptive student, lack of parental love and care, etc.

I do appreciate your level of racism though. What the heck, be forthright with it. I can't stand folks who try and hide it. Those folks are hard to try to figure out. Folks like you I can handle pretty easily and simply. Thanks for being simple.

Linda T.
Linda T6 years ago

Same is true of children in Special Education, children with mental health problems. I think our society needs to rethink how children are educated and the realities of how they learn. I believe that is where the problem lies.