In many school districts, African-American students are disciplined more often than students of other races, and at rates far out of proportion with their population.
In a national investigation, the Chicago Tribune found that in every state but Idaho, African- American students are being suspended in numbers greater than would be expected from their proportion of the student population:
In 21 states [including Ohio] that disproportionality is so pronounced that the percentage of black suspensions is more than double their percentage of the student body. And on average across the nation, black students are suspended and expelled at nearly three times the rate of white students. No other ethnic group is disciplined at such a high rate, the federal data show.
In Ohio, 17 percent of public school students are African American, but African American students account for 45 percent of disciplinary actions. Hispanic students, who make up four percent of the state’s enrollment, account for three percent of disciplinary actions. And white students, who make up about three quarters of Ohio’s enrollment, account for 46 percent of disciplinary actions, according to Ohio Department of Education data.
But some say black students are no more likely to misbehave than other students:
“There simply isn’t any support for the notion that, given the same set of circumstances, African-American kids act out to a greater degree than other kids,” said Russell Skiba, a professor of educational psychology at Indiana University whose research focuses on race and discipline issues in public schools. “In fact, the data indicate that African-American students are punished more severely for the same offense, so clearly something else is going on. We can call it structural inequity or we can call it institutional racism.”
As we wrote earlier this week, student discipline is one of the areas the Department of Justice is investigating in the Toledo school district. But Toledo is not the exception. Here’s how student discipline breaks down among Ohio’s largest urban school districts: