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On 'Radio Times,' a discussion of racial disparities in school discipline

By the Notebook on Mar 31, 2014 08:43 AM

On the first hour of WHYY's Radio Times this morning, guests Harold Jordan of the ACLU (and the Notebook's board chair), Deborah Klehr of the Education Law Center, and Matthew Steinberg, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania discussed racial disparities in school discipline in light of new data released by the Department of Education. 

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Comments (2)

Submitted by Education Grad ... on March 31, 2014 11:42 pm
I am tired of people talking JUST about the racial disparities in school discipline as if school discipline is an isolated phenomenon. It's important to place these disparities in a broader CONTEXT. The numerical disparities aren't necessarily an indication that the disciplinary practices are the only problem. The numerical disparities must be placed in the context of pre-existing disparities---poverty, children who have incarcerated parents, exposure to violence, parental involvement, parental discipline practices (e.g. use of corporal punishment), and so on. All of these pre-existing disparities contribute to what appears to be disparities in discipline. How about acknowledging that neighborhood cultural factors may influence the amount of violent tendencies that kids have? Children growing up in the 'hood in North Philadelphia or West Philadelphia live in a different environment than children growing up in the Far Northeast or Chestnut Hill or Roxborough. It's reality. Children bring what they see in the neighborhood to school. Look at the demographics of the neighborhoods. Who lives in the roughest neighborhoods? Primarily Black and Latino/a children. Most children who live in deep poverty in this city are Black or Latino/a. Who lives in the highest crime neighborhoods? Mainly Black and Latino/a persons. This says nothing about the innate aggression of certain groups of people but about the ENVIRONMENT. Poverty, crime, despair, unemployment, incarceration, and other factors all influence the socialization of children. And the phenomena of poverty, crime, and so on are tied to historic disparities and institutional racism. The discussion about discipline needs to be more holistic to include these factors. IT'S NOT JUST ABOUT THE SCHOOLS! Children are socialized differently according to where they grow up. This fact needs acknowledging. Of course schools play a part, but it's not ALWAYS about what schools are doing or aren't doing. The data can be misleading.
Submitted by J. Scanlan (not verified) on June 1, 2014 2:20 pm
The discussion in this segment reflects the common perception that generally reducing discipline rates will tend to reduce racial differences in discipline rates. The reality is exactly the opposite. See my “Things government doesn’t know about racial disparities,” The Hill (Jan. 28, 2014). “The Paradox of Lowering Standards,” Baltimore Sun (Aug. 5, 2013) “Misunderstanding of Statistics Leads to Misguided Law Enforcement Policies” (Amstat News, Dec. 2012): Further, the following web pages show that recent reductions in discipline rates in California, Maryland, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Beaverton, Oregon were all accompanied by increased racial or ethnic differences in discipline rates, just as anyone with a sound understanding of statistics should expect. This page discusses that a Department of Education report itself shows that racial differences in expulsions are smaller in districts with zero tolerance policies than in districts without zero tolerance policies.

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