Thursday, April 25, 2013

Discipline rates should not be predicatable by race

Sadly (but not surprisingly) there is a disproportionate number of students of color, particularly African American students, who are suspended in our schools: 259 African American students compared to 68 white students.  Berkeley Patch published the article "State Releases New Numbers on Suspensions in Berkeley Schools," including a helpful interactive graphic showing out-of-school suspensions by both race and offense. 

I feel sick to my stomach when I hear people make comments like, "Well, it's 'those kids' who are causing the problems." I refuse to accept that. Students of color continue to be victims of inequity in our schools- in Berkeley and across the country. I'm not pointing fingers and placing blame. I'm holding up a mirror and admitting that I am part of the problem. We need to provide all of our students with an opportunity to thrive- socially, emotionally, academically- in our schools. Right now, that's not the case and it's a huge problem- for our entire community.

What messages (subtle and direct) are we sending to students of color that they're the "bad kids?" Do they feel like they can reach their full potential in our schools?

There's currently a lot of work being done in our district to address the disproportionate rate of suspensions of students of color- The Broth-A-Hood program at Longfellow, the working group to accelerate the achievement of African American Students and equity teams throughout the schools who are trained by Pamela Harrison-Small, the ED of Berkeley Alliance (to name a few). We must continue to work together to keep this momentum going- not stopping until ALL students have the chance to excel in our schools.

4 comments:

  1. All this the 20/20 Vision stuff is smoke and mirrors. The BUSD is incapable of looking out for interest of Students of Color

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous,
      While there’s no question that many students of color in BUSD are not receiving an equitable education, the administration, school board, school leaders and community members across the city are working incredibly hard to solve this problem. It’s a huge problem that’s been entrenched in our society for decades and it’s not going to be solved overnight. But dismissing the problem as unsolvable is giving up on a generation of students who deserve an excellent education- one that I truly believe BUSD is fully capable of giving them.

      Delete
  2. So maybe the more obvious answer is that our society is producing more violent black kids, what then? Sure the reasons are complicated and involve class, race and the increasingly disproportionate distribution of wealth, etc.

    But, at the end of the day it might actually be a demonstrable fact that in the context of BUSD there are more black kids committing violent, shitty acts against other students.






    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous,
      We must consider the overall question of WHY students of color are disproportionately disciplined. Have students internalized messages from a very young age (from the media, their peers, their schools) that breaking rules is how they’re “supposed” to act and that if they focus on academics, they’re “acting white”?
      Are there hidden (or not-so-hidden) biases at work where perhaps students of different races receive different punishments for the same act? I’m not accusing anyone in Berkeley of actually doing this, but consider this fact from www.fixschooldiscipline.org: “Nationally, a significant percentage of suspensions and expulsions have been for minor offenses. From 2005 to 2007, school disciplinary exclusions for insubordination accounted for roughly 43% of the total, whereas only 0.7% were for use or possession of a firearm or explosive.”

      This problem isn’t unique to Berkeley- these are trends that occur throughout the United States. But that doesn’t excuse us from looking directly at the problem and figuring out what we, as a community, need to do to address it. Another quote from www.fixschooldiscipline.org: “Nationally African American students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than white students. The out of school suspension rate for blacks in Los Angeles and San Francisco is nearly 6 times the rate for whites (17.3% vs 2.9%). For Latinos, it’s about double.”

      Delete