A recently published report titled “Prevention v. Punishment: Threat Assessment, School Suspensions, and Racial Disparities” exposes clear and troubling disparities in school discipline along racial lines.
Written by representatives of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and JustChildren, a program of the Legal Aid Justice Center, the report notes that “Nationally, nearly one third of black male high school and middle school students undergo suspension, while only one in ten white males are suspended.” In Virginia, they add that “black males are suspended at approximately twice the rate of white males in elementary, middle, and high schools.” The same disparity exists when comparing black females to white females in Virginia schools.
Angela Ciolfi, legal director of JustChildren, stated that “Studies have found no support for the hypothesis that black male students misbehave more often. In fact, racial disparities in suspension rates have raised increasing concern nationally because the data shows just the opposite — that black students are more likely to be suspended for more subjective and less serious reasons.”
The report makes a number of recommendations, with an emphasis on utilizing the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines, and creating a positive school climate. These recommendations align with content in the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’Educational Equity Initiative. One middle school saw a 74% decrease in discipline referrals over a one-year period after participating in this professional development program with VCIC.