Education Editorial: Suspension Rates

By Dr. Bill Bosher, NBC12 Educational Specialist - email

Last week the Post ran an article which began "Across the Washington area, black students are suspended and expelled two to five times as often as white students, creating disparities in discipline that experts say reflect a growing national problem."

This past summer the US Department of Education and the Justice Department also jumped into the issue with studies that seemed to focus on underscoring inherent prejudice rather than identifying potential causes.

There is no doubt that discrimination can and does exist in every aspect of our lives. While it seems to be more individual than institutional, it is no less destructive.

Equally debilitating is the assumption that the statistics about school suspensions are driven singularly by racial bias. It would equally be false to assume that the behavior of black or Hispanic students is poorer than white students. What about the communities being served by a school? If you have a concentration of tough white kids, you are going to suspend more white students. And what about poverty and challenging homes?

Most state and federal formulas for working with at-risk students focus on minority young people. Can we advocate that more black and Hispanic students are at risk but that disruptive behavior should be considered racially neutral?

The bottom line is that policies that are clearly stated and consistently administered are not disproportional in application. Poor behavior knows no race…and suspensions shouldn't either.

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