Suspending Black Students in the South

According to the New York Times, African-American students were expelled at rates overwhelmingly higher than white children in 13 Southern states, according to an analysis of federal data. “The study was conducted at the University of Pennsylvania for the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education. The study focused on states where more than half of all the suspensions and expulsions of black students occurred nationwide. While black students represented just under a quarter of public school students in these states, they made up nearly half of all suspensions and expulsions. 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.

Last year, the Obama administration issued guidelines advising schools to create more positive climates, set clear expectations and consequences for students, and ensure equity in discipline.

Among the other findings in the analysis were that in 181 school districts where blacks represented just fewer than 60 percent of enrollment on average, all of the students expelled during 2011-12 were black. Within the 13 states, Louisiana and Mississippi expelled the highest proportion of blacks. 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 shows data for more than 3,000 districts.

Students are being suspended for such acts such as when a student is deemed disrespectful or defiant or violates a dress code. In Gwinnett County, Ga., a suburban school district near Atlanta, the new analysis showed that while fewer than a third of the students enrolled in the district were black, they represented close to half of all students suspended and more than half of all those expelled in the school year covered by the data.

The 13 states covered by the report were: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.

In addition to missing out on in-school learning time, students who are expelled or suspended are more likely to have later contact with the juvenile justice system than similar students who are not removed from school, studies have shown.