Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice

Building
off his September 2010 report on out-of-school suspensions in middle schools,
this policy brief from UCLA Civil Rights Project analyst Daniel Losen asserts
that minority students are being over-punished when compared with their white
peers. The data that he reports are jarring: According to the federal Office of
Civil Rights, the rate of suspensions has been increasing since the 1970s,
dramatically so for minority students. During the 1972-73 school year, 3
percent of white students and 6 percent of black students were assigned an
out-of-school suspension. In 2006-07, the percentage of suspended white
students ticked up two points while that of suspended blacks more than doubled
(to 15 percent). What’s impossible to know from these data, however, is whether
the punishments are warranted. Is racism at play here, or are minority students
more likely to break the rules? (Is it a little bit of both?) One can readily
agree with Losen’s implicit conclusion: More data are needed to understand
what’s really going on.

Daniel J. Losen, “Discipline
Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice
,” (Boulder, CO: National Education
Policy Center), October 2011.

More By Author