Report notes large racial disparities in school discipline

A new report says minority students are subject to disciplinary action in school at rates far higher than than than their white counterparts, at a high cost to themselves and their families.

The report, written by Daniel J. Losen of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA and published by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, is based on a review of years of studies on the issue. It says data from 2006 revealed that 28 percent of black male middle school students had been suspended at least once, almost three times the rate of their white peers. Eighteen percent of black females had been suspended, four times the rate of white females.

The report also cites a separate study that found black students were more likely to be disciplined for “behaviors that seem to require more subjective judgment on the part of the person making the referral (e.g., disrespect, excessive noise, threatening behavior, and loitering).” White students, on the other hand, were disciplined “significantly more frequently for offenses that are relatively easy to document objectively (e.g., smoking, vandalism, leaving without permission, and using obscene language).”

Losen recommends, among other things, that schools track disciplinary actions by race, ethnicity, gender and disability, and that state and federal policies be adopted to discourage out-of-school disciplinary measures.