Discipline by race

If  schools discipline more blacks or Hispanics than white students, federal officials warn they’ll use “disparate impact analysis” to charge civil rights violations, reports Education Week.

Under “disparate impact,” schools can be in violation if discipline policies affect one racial group more than others, even if there’s no evidence of unequal treatment for the same offense or an intent to discriminate.  An education agency would be found out of compliance if an equally sound policy would have less of a disparate impact, Russlyn Ali,an Education Department official, told Ed Week.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said at a conference he was “deeply troubled by rising discipline rates and disparities in discipline” in the nation’s schools.  The department has launched compliance reviews in the Christina School District in Wilmington, Del.; the Salamanca City (N.Y.) Central School District; Winston-Salem/Forsyth (N.C.) County Schools; San Juan (Utah) School District; and Rochester (Minn.) Public Schools. All involve both different-treatment and disparate-impact analyses.

Roger Clegg, president of Center for Equal Opportunity, warned the policy could push schools to manipulate the data rather than enforce rules fairly.

“In education, with respect to discipline, my concern would be that school districts are afraid they will be hauled before a court or some administration agency and threatened with a loss of federal funding whenever they have a racial imbalance of one kind or another,” he said. He explained that educators might become hypersensitive to students’ race or ethnicity in discipline decisions, resulting in disciplining some students who shouldn’t be and not disciplining others who deserve it.

In most districts, suspension rates are much higher for black and Hispanic students. Denver Public Schools changed its policies in response to complaints from a local community group, says Allegra “Happy” Haynes, the chief community-engagement officer.

The district implemented a “discipline ladder,” for example, that spelled out the level of the disciplinary action students would receive for specific kinds of infractions, such as chewing gum in class or talking back to teachers. The policy emphasized that students should receive out-of-school suspensions or be referred to police only for serious misconduct, such as causing harm to someone in a fight.

The result was that referrals to law-enforcement officers dropped by 63 percent and out-of-school suspensions declined by 43 percent in the district from the 2008-09 school year to the 2009-10 school year, she said.

Denver’s policy seems to make sense: Why kick kids out of school or call in the police, unless it’s necessary to maintain safety? But it doesn’t make Hispanics as likely to be suspended as Asian-Americans or whites. For that matter, boys are far more likely to get in trouble than girls. Should the rules be changed to tolerate boy-typical misbehavior?

The “different treatment” rule, used in the Bush administration, is simple: The black kid who curses the teacher shouldn’t get a harsher punishment than the white kid who curses the teacher.  It doesn’t matter if blacks are more likely to curse and therefore to get in trouble.

When student misbehavior is tolerated, it’s harder for teachers to teach and for students to learn.  The wild kid who gets away with it pays in the long run because he doesn’t learn self-control, a critical life skill.  All the high-achieving, high-poverty schools teach students to follow the rules so they can learn in a safe, orderly atmosphere.

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Comments

  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    This would make logical sense if the Department of Ed also required females to be disciplined at the same rate as males. They don’t. This isn’t some consistent idea of justice. It’s politics. Racially discriminatory politics.

  2. Aren’t minority children disproportionately likely to have their learning disrupted by unruly classmates? How fair is that?

  3. i discipline hispanics about 90 times more often, but not whites. mainly b/c out of the 100 kids i see, 5 are white, 17 are black and the rest are hispanic. so, am i racist? or is it just a statistical fact that the hispanic students, being the larger population, are going to have more offenses, followed by african americans and finally, whites? (in my particular school. also, the 90 times was an arbitrary number. i don’t know how much more often i have to discipline hispanics over whites, but i do know that it’s much more often than white students, who are so few in my building.)

  4. I just had a 3 hour brief on this in Texas, and the “supes” are taking this seriously. Another point of disparate impact is the difference between special ed and regular ed.

    Now the fact that special ed is the educational repository for all children diagnosed with emotional disturbances doesn’t seem to resonate.

    Btw, it’s based on a percentage basis, by populations. So if 20% of blacks are suspended, a district is out of compliance if 19% of whites are suspended.

  5. Our school district has dealt with this issue by being very specific about what offenses will result in which level of discipline. There is still a lot of angst over the higher numbers of minority students who are disciplined, but there will be huge resistance to the DOE or DOJ, or whoever, telling us that outcomes must be equivalent. And that resistance will include minority parents, as well. In my mind, a huge disparity between discipline incidents between majority and minority students SHOULD trigger a look at whether equal offenses are resulting in equal disciplinary actions — that would be entirely appropriate — but not in a rush to judgment that assumes disparate outcomes are a result of discrimination.

  6. I was in a system that functioned under those kind of rules – chaos.

    To take one example, the black kids could virtually ignore the bells to change classes – they weren’t disciplined. The official call was that it was “just their culture” and we should ignore it. So, the black kids had huge tardy numbers.

    Funny thing, this year, in a different system, the kids had been tardy more often than not in previous years.. So, after staff input, the admins set up a system where even a slight tardy incurred 3 hours after school detention.

    Within a week, tardies were virtually non-existent.

    We changed the kid’s culture – by making them accountable.

  7. Linda– My High school tried to balance out detentions at one point too — So yeah, the black and hispanic kids could fight in the halls and get off with a sharp word…

    BUT, if your mostly white and asian Calculus class was lined up in the hall waiting after the bell because the teacher had accidently locked herself out, hall sweep time and detentions for everyone!

    A clearly posted list of infractions and penalties woyld have been much better….

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    The presumption behind this is that nobody will dare to point out that misbehavior is not evenly distributed across ethnic groups.
    The social mechanisms for dealing with such heresy are in place and have been tested in practice.
    But, we’ll see.

  9. Talking about race and ethnicity can get a teacher, or anybody for that matter, in a lot of hot water.

    Even though the numbers scream that there is enormous correlation between performance and ethnicity, the smart thing to do is to remain silent.

    Yet the silence makes these numbers just about as bad today as they were 35 years ago when I first started teaching.

    Is there unspoken pressure to refrain from disciplining certain minority groups? Yes.

    Schools sometimes lower their suspension numbers by calling it something else. If I “systematically exclude” a minority child, it’s not recorded as a suspension.

    Cooking numbers, sweeping it under the rug, it’s for the sake of appearance, it’s easy to do, and the problems continue.

  10. CarolineSF says:

    Everybody needs to read Elijah Anderson’s “Code of the Streets,” right now. All will become clear!

  11. This has been going on for ages, in the DC suburbs and likely in many other areas. The fact that certain groups are more – or less- likely to cause discipline problems is too politically incorrect to acknowledge. Everyone loses; the kids whose education is disrupted and the kids who don’t experience the consequences their behavior deserves.

  12. There is a delicious irony in the movement towards an apartheid though.

  13. The imbalance is a big problem, said Mr. Losen, because at least one suspension in middle school is a key predictor that a student will drop out of school.

    The kind of misbehavior which predicts suspension probably also predicts academic failure and dropping out.  Refusing to suspend students will not fix that.

    Under “disparate impact,” schools can be in violation if discipline policies affect one racial group more than others, even if there’s no evidence of unequal treatment for the same offense or an intent to discriminate.


    Talking about race and ethnicity can get a teacher, or anybody for that matter, in a lot of hot water.

    Even though the numbers scream that there is enormous correlation between performance and ethnicity, the smart thing to do is to remain silent.

    This is a good example of “anarcho-tyranny”.  Some groups have license to commit all kinds of infractions with no official reaction, but those who dare to address or even name the problem receive severe penalties.

    Perhaps parents can fix this problem.  Suing school systems which turn a blind eye to such misbehavior or e.g. refuse to suspend assaultive students may force the issue and get the “civil wrongs” department to butt out.  A court decision forcing “disparate impact” analysis out of use would be a huge coup.

  14. I eagerly await the time when the same standard is applied to medicine. Doctors will have to let more patients of some ethnicities die so that mortality rates are the same for all demographic classifications per disease.

  15. Richard Aubrey says:

    Collussus

    Some years ago, the city fathers of Yonkers resisted a push by outside agitators to have low-income housing inflicted on them.
    Toward the end, some of the city council were being fined as individuals for not going along with The Plan.
    So, yeah, they can get you, no matter what.

  16. The insanity of this idea cannot be overstated. People should be held accountable for their actions, period, no matter what they look like on the outside…

  17. Please look at the research and data that suggests that minority students, especially blacks are disproportionately disciplined, suspended and expelled for similar infractions as their white classmates. It’s not about discipline. It’s about fairness. Most people probably believe that they are being fair in dealing with misbehavior. However, it is clear that black children are simple viewed differently. I invite you to watch http://abcnews.go.com/2020/WhatWouldYouDo/story?id=4310491&page=1. Black kids are not worse people than white kids. They are treated differently.

  18. blacks are disproportionately disciplined, suspended and expelled for similar infractions as their white classmates.

    How many white students are indoctrinated with attitudes like “He don’ have ta take ordas from no white woman!”?  Don’t you think that this just might lead to a higher incidence of irremediable disruptive behavior?

    Black kids are not worse people than white kids.

    The fact that e.g. black kids grow up to kill people at 8-10 times the rate of white kids argues otherwise.

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  1. Another reason race relations have deteriorated…

    Stupidity like this: If schools discipline more blacks or Hispanics than white students, federal officials warn they?ll use ?disparate impact analysis? to charge civil rights violations, reports Education Week. Under ?disparate impact,? schools can be …