From [HERE] Black students continue to be disciplined at school more often and more harshly than their white peers, often for similar infractions, according to a new report by Congress’s nonpartisan watchdog agency, which counters claims fueling the Trump administration’s efforts to re-examine discipline policies of the Obama administration.
The report, issued by the Government Accountability Office on Wednesday, is the first national governmental analysis of discipline policies since the Obama administration issued guidance in 2014 that urged schools to examine the disproportionate rates at which black students were being punished.
It states, "Black students, boys, and students with disabilities were disproportionately disciplined (e.g., suspensions and expulsions) in K-12 public schools, according to GAO's analysis of Department of Education (Education) national civil rights data for school year 2013-14, the most recent available. These disparities were widespread and persisted regardless of the type of disciplinary action, level of school poverty, or type of public school attended. For example, Black students accounted for 15.5 percent of all public school students, but represented about 39 percent of students suspended from school—an overrepresentation of about 23 percentage points" [MORE]
Critics of the Obama-era guidance have questioned whether students of color suffer from unfair treatment under school discipline policies. The G.A.O. found that not only have black students across the nation continued to bear the brunt of such policies, but the effects were also felt more widely than previously reported — including by black students in affluent schools.
Additionally, the agency found that school suspensions began to fall the year before the Obama administration urged schools to move away from the overuse of such measures, undermining claims that the guidance forced schools to cut suspensions. While the Obama administration’s aggressive civil rights investigations did reveal that black students were subjected to harsher treatment than their white peers for similar infractions, the G.A.O. found that it did not impose any new mandates on districts to reduce their suspension rates.
The findings are likely to bolster arguments for preserving the 2014 guidance and undercut conservative claims that the guidance has resulted in federal overreach and a decline in school safety...
The Obama administration guidance was issued based on data that showed that, in 2012, black students were being suspended at three times the rate of their white peers. According to the G.A.O. analysis, in the 2013-14 school year, black students accounted for 15.5 percent of all public school students, but represented about 39 percent of students suspended from school.
The agency also found the disparities for black students started in preschool, and persisted regardless of the type of school they attended — disparities were particularly acute in charter schools — or the disciplinary action they received.
And black students were the only race in which both boys and girls were disproportionately disciplined across six disciplinary actions examined, which included corporal punishment, in- and out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and school-related arrests.
Moreover, the agency found that black students were suspended more often than their white peers in schools of all poverty levels. In the most affluent schools, 7.5 percent of black boys had been given out-of-school suspensions, while 1.8 percent of white boys had.
The finding marks the first time that national discipline rates have been analyzed by poverty level, and challenges a common claim that poverty, more than race, may be driving disproportionate rates of disciplinary actions.
Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California at Los Angeles’s Civil Rights Project, called the finding “groundbreaking.” He said it affirms other research that shows that even black boys raised in rich neighborhoods were likely to earn less than their white peers.
“This further shows that poverty is not explaining the disparities,” Mr. Losen said. “There’s a racial discrimination problem, and that can no longer be disputed.”
The G.A.O. analysis was requested by Representative Robert C. Scott, Democrat of Virginia, and Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York.
The agency was charged with identifying patterns in disciplinary actions among public schools, the challenges that school districts faced with discipline reform, and how the Departments of Education and Justice have addressed the issue through enforcement measures. The investigation took place from November 2016 through March, and included data analysis and interviews with officials in the Education and Justice Departments, as well as district leaders in five states.
The report was praised by Democratic lawmakers as evidence that the 2014 guidance had value. The guidance informed schools that wide racial disparities could signal discriminatory practices that could result in a federal investigation and loss of federal funding. It also suggested a number of strategies for managing nonviolent behavior without resorting to kicking students out of school.
“The G.A.O.’s first-of-its-kind analysis confirms that racial bias contributes to pervasive discipline disparities,” Mr. Scott and Mr. Nadler said in a joint statement. “The G.A.O.’s findings underscore the need to strengthen the guidance, not rescind it as some have recommended.”
But critics who want to see the Obama-era guidance rescinded said the report’s scope was too narrow to draw broad conclusions.
“None of these findings change the basic story line,” said Michael J. Petrilli, the president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a research organization. “What we’ve learned is discipline reform is being applied unevenly. If you are concerned there are some specific districts and schools that are responding particularly poorly to this, I don’t think this study gets at that question.”
Mr. Petrilli also said the report did not answer the question at the heart of the Obama-guidance criticism: whether racial bias accounted for all the disparities.
The G.A.O. examination illustrated how racial bias was unfolding in some districts.
For instance, at a school district in Kentucky where black students were 10 times as likely as white students to be disciplined, school officials acknowledged that 61 types of violations were undefined, which allowed staff to punish black students more harshly. [MORE]