Black students, boys, and students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined in K-12 schools across the U.S., says a new report from the Government Accountability Office. Some 15.5 percent of public school students are black but they make up 39 percent of those suspended.
Black students, boys, and students with disabilities are disproportionately disciplined in K-12 schools across the U.S., says a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reports NPR. Those disparities were consistent, “regardless of the type of disciplinary action, regardless of the level of school poverty, and regardless of the type of public school attended,” says the GAO’s Jacqueline Nowicki. Nowicki and her team interviewed administrators, visited schools, and used 2013-2014 data from the Civil Rights Data Collection, which includes disciplinary actions in more than 95,000 schools across the U.S. Those numbers include suspensions, expulsions and referrals to law enforcement.
The numbers are stark: Black students represent 15.5 percent of all public school students, but make up about 39 percent of students suspended from school, according to the report. And it starts early: in preschool. Though Nowicki says her team did not specifically explore the role of unconscious bias in these disparities, “research shows it’s clearly a factor,” she says. The report builds on previous research about bias and the ways in which students of color receive harsher punishments than their peers. The GAO report also adds a new layer: Researchers found that these disparities cannot be explained by poverty levels — they existed regardless of the poverty level of schools studied. The GAO report arrives in the middle of a fiery debate about discipline in schools. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos met Wednesday with educators as she considers whether she will pull back Obama-era guidance to school districts. In that guidance the administration made clear to schools that the disparities in discipline violate civil rights law and will not be tolerated.