Staring at a Classmate Can Get Your Kid Suspended (If They’re Black)

Last week in Glendale, Ohio, a judge ruled that suspension from school is a completely appropriate punishment for a twelve-year-old who participated in a staring contest with a classmate.

The boy (who has not been named) was suspended from St. Gabriel Consolidated School for several days last year after a girl’s parents reported the prolonged eye contact left their daughter feeling “fearful,” despite the boy explaining that he had no idea he’d done anything to make the girl feel uncomfortable. He was also forced to write an apology note for “intimidating” his classmate.

According to Fox19, he wrote, “I never knew she was scared because she was laughing. [...] I understand I done the wrong thing that will never happen again. I will start to think before I do so I am not in this situation.”

The boy’s parents, understandably, thought this was an overreaction on the part of the school, and filed a lawsuit seeking to have the suspension erased from his record. Judge Patrick Dinkelacker decided on October 4th to deny the claim. While the parents may still be able to appeal the ruling, it’s disheartening to see a judicial official siding with the school on such ridiculous grounds. Even in the context of overzealous zero tolerance policies, this case stands out.

If you’re scratching your head trying to make sense of this story, there’s one fact that might help explain things: the boy in question in this story is black. His female classmate is white. And unfortunately, this isn’t out of the norm for students of color: research by Indiana University shows that black boys are three times as likely to be suspended in school as white boys, and that black girls are four times more likely than their white peers.

Make no mistake: the reason for this isn’t that black children are more likely to misbehave than white children. It’s pure, unconscious racism. A University of Pennsylvania study this summer found that the majority of these expulsions and suspensions were due to infractions that had nothing to do with school safety.

Black students in many parts of the country are far more likely to be suspended for issues like dress code violations, being late to school, or talking back to a teacher than their white peers. In fact, there’s evidence this pattern begins as early as preschool — and it’s hard to imagine most four-year-olds doing anything serious enough to get expelled.

So what are parents to do when their public school student faces the very real threat of suspension, expulsion or even criminal charges for minor infractions in the classroom? The Obama administration has put forth recommendations encouraging schools to end zero tolerance policies, and encourage conflict resolution training for teachers and school staff rather than calling in school security personnel or escalating directly to out of school suspension. Unfortunately, these recommendations are non-binding — it’s up to parents to demand these changes in their children’s’ schools by putting pressure on their school districts and raising awareness of the issue.

If you’d like to demand that the judge in this week’s case revisit his ruling and remove this inappropriate suspension from the student’s record, sign the petition here. If enough people continue to push back against these policies, schools will be forced to revisit them.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

101 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Sen Heijkamp
Sayenne H2 years ago

For staring? Thats insane. I get shy too when people stare, just tell the people it makes you feel uneasy? At least one could try thinking its not deliberately done to make another feel uneased. Don't we all have some socially awkward moments. Lol. I would say that having told the boy this, that is feels uneasy to her, and him apologizing and saying he did nor realize and did not mean to and won't do it again is already plenty fix? Really weird.

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Andre Jackson
Andre Jackson2 years ago

White America thrives on racism, without it would be a country of white blithering idiots.

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H M.
H M2 years ago

Deborah W: Your white privilege is showing, again.

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Kathryn Irby
Past Member 2 years ago

A reincarnation of the Emmett Till case!!!

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Julia Cabrera-Woscek

The darnest thing I have heard today. Maybe they feel intimidated by what?

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Anon E.
Cela V2 years ago

sad...

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

Noted and signed.
It's not necessarily racist. Could be sexist too.

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Ingrid A.
Ingrid A2 years ago

Stupid. Signed petition.

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Manuela C.
Manuela C2 years ago

WTF???

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