New data show that racial disparities persist in school discipline, despite efforts to reduce the imbalance.
Federal statistics from the 2015-16 school year demonstrate that black students, along with Hispanic males and American Indians, face greater rates of suspension, expulsion, and arrest than their white classmates.
For example, black students accounted for 15.5 percent of the total student body population, but represented about 39 percent of students suspended from US public schools. Implicit bias helps fuel the disparity, according to a report released by the GAO.
“The issue of who gets disciplined and why is complex. Studies we reviewed suggest that implicit bias—stereotypes or unconscious associations about people—on the part of teachers and staff may cause them to judge students’ behaviors differently based on the students’ race and sex,” the report notes. “Teachers and staff sometimes have discretion to make case-by-case decisions about whether to discipline, and the form of discipline to impose in response to student behaviors, such as disobedience, defiance, and classroom disruption. Studies show that these decisions can result in certain groups of students being more harshly disciplined than others.”
Studies have shown that students removed from the classroom through measures like suspension or expulsion have a higher risk of dropping out of school and becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.
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