NYT: Harper report reveals racial disparity in school discipline across the South

August 25, 2015

In schools across the United States, Black students are punished more severely than their peers. But nowhere are Black students suspended or expelled more than in the South.

A study released today by the Center for Race and Equity in Education — as reported in the New York Times — reveals that 55 percent of the 1.2 million Black students suspended in the U.S. live in just 13 Southern states.

Researchers Edward Smith and Shaun Harper offer a state-by-state, school district-by-district examination of school discipline for Black students in the South.

Smith and Harper found Black students were consistently suspended and expelled at higher rates than their peers across the region. This held true in urban, suburban, and rural districts, for both Black boys and Black girls.

View Video of Harper & Smith: 

“We want policy makers, parents and everybody to understand that any degree of disproportionality is in need of redress and response,” Harper told the Times.

As the Times notes:

  • “In some districts, the gaps were even more striking: in 132 Southern school districts, for example, Black students were suspended at rates five times their representation in the student population, or higher.
  • “In 181 school districts where Blacks represented just under 60 percent of enrollment on average, all of the students expelled during 2011-12 were Black.
  • “Blacks were suspended or expelled at rates higher than their representation in the student body in every one of the 13 states analyzed.”

The report includes recommendations for how educators and communities can work to improve school discipline, including recommendations for more in-depth discussions about race in teacher education programs.

 “This is at least partly attributed to people having these racist assumptions about Black kids,” Harper told the Times. “We argue that too little happens in schools of education to raise consciousness about that.”

For an overview of this report, including more media links, click here. 


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