New report: No evidence students of color engage in more misbehavior than whites. Why higher suspensions?

(Dean Rohrer NewsArt)

(Dean Rohrer NewsArt)

A new policy brief from a civil rights research and advocacy group out of UCLA reignites the concern that race influences which students  are punished in schools and how they are punished.

I have written about this topic a great deal on the blog because the evidence clearly suggests that minority children are punished more severely, but many posters are skeptical and argue the opposite.

In June, the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law & Justice released a report called “Effective Student Discipline: Keeping Kids in Class.” The study  found that African-American students, poor kids and children with learning disabilities are more likely to be disciplined in Georgia schools.

Among the facts in this new report:

Each year, more than 3.25 million K–12 students are suspended at least once. African American students are suspended three times as often as white students – 15 percent versus 5 percent. Hispanic students (7 percent) and Native American students (8 percent) are also suspended at higher rates than white students.

Researchers have found no evidence that students of color engage in more misbehavior than white students. Research does document that the largest disparities in discipline of white and African American students are for infractions that involve judgment calls by adults – talking back or disrespect, for instance. For example, an analysis of North Carolina discipline data found that African American first-time offenders were far more likely to be suspended than white first-time offenders for the same infraction.

Most suspensions are not responses to serious violence. Most states mandate expulsion (not suspension) for weapons, violence, and drug possession/use. Rising suspension rates reflect an increase in school removal for other, lesser infractions. Compared to 102,000 expulsions in 2006-2007 (the most recent year of available data), more than 3.25 million students were suspended at least once, mostly for nonviolent infractions such as truancy, dress-code violations, inappropriate language, and classroom disruptions. Advocates representing students in expulsion cases have even found that some expulsions are for minor, nonviolent infractions, such as repeated instances of talking back or not following  a dress code.

Here is an excerpt from the policy brief from the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA:

“… in September of 2010, a report analyzing 2006 data collected by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights found that more than 28% of black male middle school students had been suspended at least once.This is nearly three times the 10% rate for white males. Further, 18% of black females in middle school were suspended, more than four times as often as white females (4%).3  Later that same month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Duncan each addressed a conference of civil rights lawyers in Washington, D.C., and affirmed their departments’ commitment to ending such disparities.

Findings of this brief strongly suggest a need for reform. A review of the evidence suggests that subgroups experiencing disproportionate suspension miss important instructional time and are at greater risk of disengagement and diminished educational opportunities. Moreover, despite the fact that suspension is a predictor of students’ risk for dropping out, school personnel are not required to report or evaluate the impact of disciplinary decisions. Overall, the evidence shows the following: there is no research base to support frequent suspension or expulsion in response to non-violent and mundane forms of adolescent misbehavior; large disparities by race, gender and disability status are evident in the use of these punishments; frequent suspension and expulsion are associated with negative outcomes; and better alternatives are available.

Based on the research reviewed, the following recommendations for improved policies and practices will help safeguard the civil rights of our schoolchildren and create more effective and equitable learning environments:

–Public school educators should routinely collect, reflect upon, and publicly report data on school disciplinary removal.

–Reports at the state, district, and school level (where permissible) should include data disaggregated by race/ethnicity, gender, and disability status in terms of numbers of each group disciplined. These reports should also include the percentage of each group that experiences suspension and expulsion, as well as disaggregated incidence data on the type of infraction and the number of days of missed instruction that results from such removals.

–Civil rights enforcement agents should use the disparate impact standard of legal review as grounds to pursue remedies for the unjust and unnecessary removal of children from school.

–When Congress reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, it should provide positive incentives for schools, districts and states to support students, teachers and school leaders in systemic improvements to classroom and behavior management where rates of disciplinary exclusion are high – even where disparities do not suggest unlawful discrimination.

–Federal and state policy should specify the rate of out-of-school suspensions as one of several factors to be considered in assessments of school efficacy, especially for low-performing schools. Researchers should investigate connections between school discipline data and key outcomes such as achievement, graduation rates, teacher effectiveness, and college and career readiness. System-wide improvements should be pursued through better policies and practices at all levels—including an effort to improve teachers’ skills in classroom and behavior management.

Our public schools are essential to preparing our children to participate fully in our economic and democratic future. With these interests at stake, U.S. policymakers must find more effective ways to educate all of the nation’s children, including those who may be challenging to engage.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

140 comments Add your comment

HS Public Teacher

October 7th, 2011
12:29 pm

This is confusing. The title says that blacks involved in no more misbehaving than whites…… really?

I am not racist at all. However, it is just too hard to explain how our justice system, the jail cells, the student detention rooms, etc., are so full of blacks. This cannot be explained simply “bacause white-ie is out to get us.”

I have elementary teacher friends (some black, some not) that say they clearly see a behavior difference between the races. I feel that this is a result of their environment growing up, and the learned behaviors from home.

Once Again

October 7th, 2011
12:40 pm

Far fewer ersons of color use drugs than whites too but end up behind bars FAR more often than whites. I am no bleeding heart liberal, but our justice system is seriously messed up.

Maybe if we stopped trying to legislate morality (locking up people for victimless crimes) we would be able to leave more resources in the pockets of citizens (and more citizens at home raising families where they belong) and some of our problems would go away on their own.

The zero intelligence policies we now imploy in schools have turned what used to be minor discipline problems into police matters that generate police records that haunt children for the rest of their lives. Similarly arresting and imprisoning people for putting substances into their bodies that the government does not approve of, engaging in financial transactions the government is not getting a cut of (let’s face it, that is the real reason prostitution and gambling are illegal), and similar activities involving consenting adults only serves to permanently destroy the standing of individuals in the eyes of society, employers, etc. Perpetuate this cycle long enough and you begin to destroy families, communities, and society in general.

Another Math Teacher

October 7th, 2011
12:41 pm

“Advocates representing students in expulsion cases have even found that some expulsions are for minor, nonviolent infractions, such as repeated instances of talking back ”

Seriously? Daily disruption in class by talking back is considered minor? Why don’t you ask the parents of the other 25 kids in class who lose 5-10 minutes a day because of ’students’ such as these. When other borderline disruptive kids see there are no consequences, they act up as well. Then, instead of losing the one ’student,’ you lose 3-5 others.

thomas

October 7th, 2011
12:41 pm

@ HS Public Teacher,

Regarding your last part of the comment. Yes, there is no question that behavior patterns among whites and blacks (and even among some whites and other whites, or some blacks and other blacks) do exist. They are just different and learned from home and their community/culture. What children don’t necessarily learn is that what is perfectly acceptable behavior in one group may not be accepted/appreciated by another group — the interpretation of the behavior is a different matter. When the person behaving and the person observing the behavior come from different backgrounds (e.g., students and teachers, citizens and law enforcement officers, etc.) that can create a mismatch of expectations. Now, clearly, there are some behaviors that are considered to be wrong in most, if not all, groups.

How we react to behaviors is often inconsistent and defies logic. I have observed a teacher who reprimanded a student for shouting out an answer to a question she asked by saying “***, how many times do I have to tell you to raise your hand?” Then, a few minutes later, when another student shouted out an snwer to her question, she responded, “***, that is a very interesting idea.” I bet the first student was totally confused why he was reprimanded for doing the exactly the same thing as the second one, yet the second one got praised.

So, I can see how black students get in more trouble in white teachers’ classrooms. The question, though, is what happens if the teacher is black and students are whites. Is there a similar pattern?

Once Again

October 7th, 2011
12:45 pm

Of course getting to the point I make repeatedly on this blog, make parents responsible for the education of their own children instead of putting the burden on society and letting them off the hook, ending mandatory attendence laws, and removing all barriers to the creative and innovate free market in addressing education, and the only kids you will see in any class will be those that actually want to be there. Further, by getting rid of the government bureaucracy, mindless policies of involving police for the most petty of behavioral issues will also end immediately.

Former APS Teacher

October 7th, 2011
12:57 pm

Sorry, but I’m not buying it. In every public school I’ve worked in, we were essentially forbidden to pursue formal disciplinary action for any black male student, for precisely the reason that groups such as the NAACP and ACLU look for any excuse to say that minority students are being treated unfairly. Unless I missed, there’s no substantiation in the above quote for the claim that there is no evidence for higher rate misbehavior among subgroups.

R

October 7th, 2011
1:11 pm

If you have a school that’s majority black, you’re going to have the majority of your suspensions be, wait for it…..black! Same with majority white schools. Quit playing the race card. Stupid disruptions know no race, creed, or gender.

William Casey

October 7th, 2011
1:11 pm

ANOTHER MATH TEACHER hit the nail on the head. These so-called “minor” infractions, when repeated constantly, are serious DISRUPTIONS of learning. They are “minor” only to those with no desire to teach or learn. If caucasians are getting away with such behaviors, they should be suspended as well. They were when I was Dean of Students at Chattahoochee High School back in the ’90’s.

William Casey

October 7th, 2011
1:14 pm

One of the most effective methods of dealing with “chronic disruptors” was to require their parents to attend school for a day with their children.

Greg S.

October 7th, 2011
1:14 pm

A civil rights group, from California no less, found that minority groups are suspended more often than non-minorities….Duh! An old adage states, and I paraphrase,: “When you’re looking for conspiracy, you’ll always find it.” The beautiful thing about data is that it is always open to misinterpretation.

RJ

October 7th, 2011
1:17 pm

I teach lower income blacks, however I’ve taught middle to upper income blacks and whites. The difference I see is SES. I just find that students in certain communities act differently than those in communities with higher income brackets. @ HS Teacher, I am sure that if you asked those same black teachers did students act that way when they were growing up, they’d probably tell you no. I went to school in Buckhead and I can assure you that the black, white, latino, bi-racial, etc kids all did dumb stuff. The white kids did a heck of a lot more drugs though. But we weren’t suspended for every little infraction. Regarding the justice system, well, let’s just say that there is a reason equality is yet to exist in this country.

Greg S.

October 7th, 2011
1:20 pm

I love the statement “…require their parents…”. Their parents are supposedly “required” to help them learn, teach discipline and back up the teachers. HA! Most parents are too busy thinking their little darlings are just perfect angles and it’s those other kids/parents that are the problem.

queenzach3

October 7th, 2011
1:24 pm

I agree with HS public teacher, that the report is somewhat distorted because if you look at the prisons, student dentention centers they are full of black people. The schools that my children attended was mixed and the majority of students who got in trouble and had the most severe penalties were black.

Lee

October 7th, 2011
1:24 pm

So, a “civil rights research group” looks at a bunch of data and spins it to support their preconceived hypothesis. I’m shocked, SHOCKED I tell you…

ROFLMAO

And so now, Attorney General Eric Holder, yes the same Eric Holder who thought it would be a great idea to sell a bunch of weapons to mexican drug cartels and see where they wound up only to have two US Border Control officers killed with these same weapons, is now going to look end these racial disparities in discipline.

Give me a break.

But anyhow, I love how the politically correct keep their head in the sand and deny any differences between the races (at least, those differences that show the minorities in a bad light…).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-j1Z8fHPI4

Lee

October 7th, 2011
1:27 pm

BTW, if the NAACP, Eric Holder, et al, continue to pressure schools to NOT discipline blacks, then expect the behavior to only get worse.

vietnamvetteacher

October 7th, 2011
1:29 pm

The color difference in students is mostly GREEN not BLACK. Black kids from middle class families with college educated parents, grandparents, and other relatives, by and large, have the same behavioral tendencies as white of the same soci economic level. While teaching HS in APS for 30+ years I am in a position to render an informed opinion.

dc

October 7th, 2011
1:30 pm

I’m betting that the statement “Researchers have found no evidence that students of color engage in more misbehavior than white students” is completely taken out of context. It probably in fact is talking about a comparison of “white and black students of the same socio economic background”…..which is not at all how it’s portrayed in this B.S. article/study.

It’s hard to believe that there is any doubt that lower income kids act up more across the board.

Olddog

October 7th, 2011
1:33 pm

Recently spent three hours at the local middle school. There was definately a difference in the behavior of the students. Out of 23 students that I observed three black children, two male and one female exhibited behavior that was inappropriate. During one thirty minute period the teacher had to correct these three 18 times for loudly talking, roaming around the room, taking other students books or papers. When I left, I felt I knew why teaches get trouble for taping children’s mouths shut, putting them in boxes and everything else that makes the news.

AlreadySheared

October 7th, 2011
1:34 pm

” When the person behaving and the person observing the behavior come from different backgrounds …. that can create a mismatch of expectations.”
thomas

“What we got here is… failure to communicate.”
Captain, Road Prison 36 / Cool Hand Luke

dave

October 7th, 2011
1:36 pm

wow, no evidence found? did these resaerchers watch the behavior of every kid in the country over a period of time to come up with this? all i need to see is all these mobs of black kids attacking people left and right every day. and since when does income level determine whether a kid knows right from wrong?

mystery poster

October 7th, 2011
1:37 pm

@Another Math Teacher

Exactly. I couldn’t have said it better.

barneyfife

October 7th, 2011
1:42 pm

Let’s put all the prejudices aside and look at numbers and FACTS:
Rules are rules! If someone breaks the rules, they should be punished. I don’t care about your race, socioeconomic background, mental deficits, etc. If you wish to attend public school you are expected to behave. If you don’t, then you are punished. If you happen to be one of the demographic groups crying foul, then maybe public school isn’t for you. How’s that for simplicity? I am sick and tired of standards lowered because they fall into a group you call “disadvantaged”, or whatever term you wish to use. Parents- why don’t you start being parents?

And the beat goes on...

October 7th, 2011
1:44 pm

I don’t think black students engage in more misbehavior than white students. However, I do think their reactions to corrective measures, even if that measure is a verbal reprimand, are what lead to harsher punishments. Gentle reminders of how to behave often evoke profanity-laced outbursts. However, the outbursts of the students is nothing compared to the outbursts of their parents. “You can’t tell my child how to act!”

And the beat goes on...

October 7th, 2011
1:47 pm

To continue…a more appropriate reaction might be to say “Yes, Maam” or “Yes, Sir,” and then change one’s behavior, at least until the teacher isn’t looking anymore. It is the reaction to a simple request or reminder that gets them in trouble.

tony

October 7th, 2011
1:48 pm

have you been to north fulton, cherokee , or johns creek lately? there is a reason everyone moved up there , mainly so their kids could go to school with majoriry of white kids and also so their representation was not the same idots who run clayton dekalb and the city of atlanta.

dc

October 7th, 2011
1:50 pm

The responses to this B.S. “study” do show one positive thing though (with thankfully few exceptions). It used to be that a group could publish a “Study” and people would believe the results, even though the conclusion just didn’t feel right. The internet has completely destroyed the ability for folks to mislead in that way.

The experience of most folks in normal public schools is very different from the “conclusion” that this group tries to promote. And now most of us realize, after years of being bombarded with “studies” that were in reality contrived opinion pieces, that we are better off tempering published reports with actual life experiences (i.e. the “sniff test”).

Quite encouraging, imo.

oldtimer

October 7th, 2011
1:51 pm

Olddog, Viet vet…another math teacher et al…….All ahve said it correctly and until we hold children accountable, nothing will change. I have taught in all kinds of schools. Kids who have parents that expect good grades and good behavior…behave great. The opposite is also true. Spend one day in Clayton County Middle or High Schools…those not in education would be shocked. I am lucky I left and spent a few years in another state in a rural community. These kids behaved…even if they did not do much work.

Patrick

October 7th, 2011
2:07 pm

@HS Public Teacher. “I am not racist at all. However, it is just too hard to explain how our justice system, the jail cells, the student detention rooms, etc., are so full of blacks. This cannot be explained simply “bacause white-ie is out to get us.”

Don’t forget that our cops always have to beat them too. Just no explainin it.

Teacher's Son

October 7th, 2011
2:08 pm

I’m pretty sure anyone that went to public schools laugh at this “disparity.” Some children react better to warnings, others don’t care about consequences. It all comes down to parenting.

Good Mother

October 7th, 2011
2:14 pm

I have a similar experience in boot camp.

When the CO yelled at a black woman, she gave him “the look” or a smart alek remark, which always got her into trouble….but when the same black CO yelled at a white woman she would usually ….cry…but never give him “the look” or a smart alek remark.

Guess which girls were made to do push ups?

The CO would usually admonish (make fun of, ridicule) the white woman for crying but the brazen looks and back talk got one push ups.

There were no socio economic disparities in that company. We were all poor.

Hold up?

October 7th, 2011
2:14 pm

This article is full of bad data and stereotypes.
Why wasn’t there any data for the % of Asian students that get suspended?

Maureen Downey

October 7th, 2011
2:14 pm

@DC, The statement is not lifted out of the material — it is taken directly from the report. But read the entire report. The link is there.
Maureen

Teacher's Son

October 7th, 2011
2:16 pm

Patrick

Those beatings that take place are the same reason blacks are suspended more.

THE TROUBLEMAKERS DON’T LISTEN TO AUTHORITY!!!

I think having a male father figure is huge in every child’s development/respect for authority/self esteem/sense of responsibility.

Logic 05

October 7th, 2011
2:17 pm

“Advocates representing students in expulsion cases have even found that some expulsions are for minor, nonviolent infractions, such as repeated instances of talking back ”

Talking back is not a significant problem????? This had to be written by someone that does NOT teach every day in a classroom.

WHY SHOULD TEACHERS TOLERATE BACK TALK????

dc

October 7th, 2011
2:26 pm

Sorry, Maureen, didn’t mean to imply that you had lifted anything out of context. What I meant to say is that I expect that the data actually showed that people of the same socio-economic background, regardless of color, likely exhibited the same discipline issues. and those in the lower economic levels are more likely to have discipline issues.

Now, that being said….I have not read the report, but was just trying to give them the benefit of the doubt…because if they are saying that whites and blacks across the board have the same levels of discipline, then that is completely contrary to what the teachers/administrators that I am closest to have experienced, in a school that is 30-30-30-10 racial mix.

I

Georgia Matters

October 7th, 2011
2:26 pm

White, black, hispanic or otherwise, by the time these kids get to school they should be taught repect and how to behave. This is not being taught at the home. The parents of disruptive kids everywhere can take the blame for their kids, not the color of the skin. I am really sick of the race card. We are all children of GOD so start acting like it.

Texas Pete

October 7th, 2011
2:28 pm

To be honest, I see higher income kids misbehaving just as much as lower income kids. The only difference is higher income kids tend to be let off the hook more by teachers AND their own parents. To step outside of the original topic, watch how kids behave during activities outside of the classroom. I see higher income kids doing everything to running around indoors, making noise during an organized activity that would be considered disruptive to those participating, hitting each other (horseplay, not fights) with limb and other objects, and all kinds of inappropriate behavior. The rubber meets the road at how the adults deal with it.

As Once Again hinted towards, I think those in charge decide who they find the misbehavior unacceptable before it even happens. I don’t think this is simply a race issue but rather a social status issue. You can spin it specifically about race or income but it’s really about who those in charge decide to give a pass to…

If a lower income teacher sees a bunch of rich kids misbehaving, it might bother that teacher more than if lower income kids were doing the same thing, or vice versa. The same can be said when the difference is race, religion, sex, favorite sports team, political affiliation, etc. The underlying point is that punishment is dealt out in a very subjective manner despite what policy and procedure states.

It’s not a new concept that students favored by the teacher get more breaks than students who cause teachers more trouble. If performance and behavior were the only criteria to create that judgement things would be fine, it’s the possibility that other more personal bias issues could cause a teacher to favor one type of student over another that is troubling.

Dr. John Trotter

October 7th, 2011
2:33 pm

Trying to be politically correct will not solve anything. May I repeat the MACE mantra? You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions.

http://www.georgiateachersspeakout.com

http://www.theteachersadvocate.com

If students don’t learn to live within disciplinary boundaries in schools, then they will learn it in the military or state prison. This is the cold reality of life. I deal in reality, not pipe dreaming.

Ashley

October 7th, 2011
2:37 pm

The cost of teaching a child to say ….no ma’am /yes ma’am, no sir/yes sir, may I please be excuse, thank-you, and good-morning. The price tag $0. Manners and being respectable in schools is something all parents can teach their children, regardless of soci-economics.

thewindwhistler

October 7th, 2011
2:37 pm

from the way you worded the headline, you are begging for the answer: It is because of prjudice.

Public school administrator

October 7th, 2011
2:40 pm

Black males are suspended more than anyone else because black males commit more discipline infractions than any other sub group – period.

Beverly Fraud

October 7th, 2011
2:43 pm

Why not just put Kathy Augustine in charge of discipline. According to her APS’s reforms were “working so well, there are no discipline problems to report” when confronted with the fact that 40 schools reported ZERO discipline problems.

Well “confronted” might be the wrong word when it comes to Maureen, as she apparently let the statement pass without comment.

Wow

October 7th, 2011
2:45 pm

“Moreover, despite the fact that suspension is a predictor of students’ risk for dropping out…”

Wow, students who tell the teacher to “F-ck off and die, b-tch” are more likely to drop out of school than other students.

Insightful

Corey

October 7th, 2011
2:48 pm

What’s the difference between a Wall St. thief and a smash and grab thief? The Wall St, thief can afford window dressing.

Wow

October 7th, 2011
2:49 pm

Ever notice how quick some are to label rude, nasty, defiant, disobedient, and disruptive behaviors as “minor” so long as they THEMSELVES don’t have to deal with them?

Chris

October 7th, 2011
2:52 pm

My wife teaches math at a Gwinnett County school and I’ve on occasion sat in her classroom as she taught and saw how students behaved. All I have to say is that it starts in the home. When kids come from a single-parent home, they’re more likely to act out, especially if there’s not a dad around. A dad is supposed to be the leader of the family, and sadly, we’re seeing more broken homes – and, the kids suffer. Don’t get me wrong, I think the mother has a very important job, but when you have a dad around that tells his girls to value themselves and not try to get that attention from a boy who has bad intentions in the first place, and a dad to teach a boy how to become a man and how to live his life with integrity, then you see better behaved kids – for the most part. When dad’s refuse to step up and take responsibility, they’re only setting their kids up for failure, in the classroom – and later, in life.

Fericita

October 7th, 2011
2:53 pm

I wonder how much of this “disparity” is really a refelction of the fact that our schools are very segregated, and different schools handle things differently. Haven’t we been raving about schools like KIPP and the Ron Clark Academy becasue they don’t tolerate disrespectful speech or backtalk? Maureen, didn’t your posting about the Ron Clark Academy point out that the kids don’t speak at all for the first two weeks? My guess is that schools with a majority or minority students do discipline differently. And why should the Civil Rights Project say that’s wrong if it’s working? Those schools are certainly successful. I would be very interested to hear Ron Clark’s reaction to this! It’s bad enough dealing with scripted lessons, now teachers can’t get a kid suspended if he/she curses them out?!

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 7th, 2011
2:59 pm

Greg S.

October 7th, 2011
1:14 pm

My thoughts exactly. This study is just more civil rights Horse Manure. But be not deterred fellow citizens. While you, whomever you may be, are justifyin your and your offsprings actions via excuse making. The fact remains they are going to jail in droves and I couldnt care less.

Build more prisons and fill them up with offenders. Color of the offender matters not to me.

Jack

October 7th, 2011
3:02 pm

Talking back, Ms. Downey, is the problem. Attitude. Attitude.

Dr NO / Mr Sunshine

October 7th, 2011
3:07 pm

I wonder how many of these poor discriminated against black students come from majority or all black schools? Perhaps its an issue akin to black on black crime.