Earlier this week the New York Times published an editorial condemning Zero-Tolerance policies in educational settings (I urge you to follow the links to read the entire series). Not only have school districts overzealously applied adult criminal-justice strategies to children in educational settings, the application of these policies has been shockingly uneven. Children, especially boys, are routinely suspended, expelled and even arrested for being chronically tardy, violating the dress code, cursing, chewing gum, disobeying, texting and using their cell phones, and getting into shoving matches – which in the past would have earned demerits or detentions. In Texas, a landmark study found that 63% of all 7th-12th graders had been suspended or expelled at least once, including 83% of Black males, 74% of Hispanic males, and 59 percent of White males.
The implications of these policies are significant. Because the more you remove a child from the classroom, the more you undermine their education. Suspend a kid twice and you effectively end his educational career. These policies are applied so unevenly to students of color, and especially to Black students, that some experts believe that the racial achievement gap and the racial discipline gap are two sides of the same coin. Even when researchers adjust for 83 different variables (including poverty), a student’s race determines both whether and how severely s/he was punished. Students with disabilities are over disciplined as well.
Our children deserve better! The good news is that parents and educators can come together to bring these unconscionable practices to an end. What background do you need to make the case? Where can you find the stats for your school? And how can you work to challenge these policies?
We tell you in "Promises Kept: Raising Black Boys to Succeed in School and in Life." You can order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and at your local independent bookstore.