- According to a new report from the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, black students in 13 Southern states make up nearly half of all suspensions and expulsions despite making up less than a quarter of the student body.
- Together, the 13 states make up roughly half of all suspensions and expulsions of black students in the country, with Louisiana and Mississippi having the highest rates.
- In 181 school districts, all of the students expelled during the 2011-12 school year were black.
The news that black students are disproportionately disciplined in American schools is not new. But the disparities the report uncovered are astonishing. The scope of the study is also intensive. The researchers looked at more than 3,000 school districts in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. In every state, black students were suspended or expelled at higher rates than white students. In some districts, the gap was huge, with black students five times more likely to be expelled in 132 districts.
One of the questions that has come up in studies of the school-to-prison pipeline is whether black students simply commit more infractions. But research has found that in places where teachers or administrators are given control over the severity of the punishment, the end result is more severe punishments for black students when it comes to similarly small infractions like talking back or violating the dress code. By contrast, when suspension or expulsion is mandated for serious offenses, white students are actually expelled or suspended at higher rates.
President Barack Obama has made rectifying school discipline in schools a key part of his second term's education agenda, alongside closing achievement gaps. But the study found that even districts that saw success closing achievement gaps had huge disparities in school discipline.