Students of color are up to eight times more likely to be suspended from school than white students. That is among the eye-opening findings of a Team 12/Kane In Your Corner investigation into education inequality.
Trevon Jenkins still remembers the day he says a classmate at Southampton High School on Long Island called him the N-word. He says they wound up fighting off campus, but only he faced a serious consequence - losing his title of Student Council president. “Instead of him getting a consequence, they removed me from my presidency,” Jenkins recalls. “No doubt, no questions. No ‘what happened?’ Because of what someone did to me, and how I reacted, because I was the angry Black kid, I had it taken away.”
Southampton’s school superintendent says Jenkins’ allegations are “inaccurate” but when we asked what made them inaccurate, he would not say. Statistics indicate Jenkins’s story may not be unusual. Kane In Your Corner analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education and found students often face unequal discipline. In New Jersey, Black students are more than five times more likely to be suspended than white students. Black girls are eight times more likely to face suspension. In both cases, the numbers have improved from two years earlier.
“I’ve done a lot of research with Black girls who really feel like they're advocating for themselves,” says Kayla Patrick, senior policy analyst for The Education Trust. “They're not talking back, they're just showing what we would consider in many cases, leadership skills. And they're being suspended for those very minor offenses.”
New Jersey education officials admit inequality is a problem and say they offer training to districts where discipline numbers are most out of line. “It is critical that districts are able to share, to partner and to join together to address some of the inequities that you have mentioned,” says acting New Jersey Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan.
New Jersey is not alone when it comes to unequal school discipline. In Connecticut, 9.3% of Black students were suspended in 2018 - the most recent school year for which records exist. Among white students, the rate was 1.7%.
David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center, believes unequal discipline often comes down to money. Because Black and brown districts typically have fewer resources, school officials there are forced to resort to suspension sooner. “The good news is that the numbers are starting to come out,” he says. “We're beginning to recognize this as a structural problem.”
When it comes to equality in discipline, New York state schools have one of the best records in the country, but it’s still not equal. Nearly 6% of Black students were suspended at least once in the 2018 school year, compared to 3.6% of white students.
Original Article: January 29, 2021