Changing the School Discipline Structure

Have you heard about the racial disparity in punishments faced by students in public school systems nationwide? According to Dr. Bernadeia Johnson, superintendent of schools for the Minneapolis public school district,

In Minneapolis, a low-income black student is six times more likely than a white student to be suspended for at least one day in a school year.

Well, that must be just a Minneapolis, or maybe a Minnesota problem, right? It can’t be nationwide. But it is. Across the country, students of color are routinely given harsher sentences, ranging from detention all the way up to jail time, for infractions that White students are often sent, instead, for psychological help or mediation. We’re talking about a range of offenses, from fights and property damage to the wrong hairstyle or dress code violations. We’re comparing apples to apples–student punishment for dress code violations to dress code violations and fights to fights. While Minneapolis has one of the highest disparities nationwide, this is a problem that occurs in every district. Do White students get suspended or expelled, too? Sure. But being six times more likely just because of the color of your skin? Unfortunately, it’s been proven. It’s usually not a conscious choice by the teacher or other disciplinarian. Our racial bias in this nation runs deep, and is often below the level of consciousness. Dr. Johnson explains,

Despite an educator’s best intentions, a discipline decision may be unintentionally biased.

This courageous woman intends to right the system. She’s implementing a whole new set of rules, including a review of each suspension of a student of color, to fix the problem. Some critics have been concerned, however, that this new system will disadvantage White students. She addresses those concerns in the Washington Post.

Our new discipline policies do not put white students at a disadvantage simply by addressing unfair discipline for students of color. Focusing our efforts on improving the school experience for students whom our system has failed does not require us to neglect students for whom the system is succeeding. If we are to improve our nation’s future, we must change the academic trajectory for black and brown students. … As an educator who fervently believes in the potential of every child, I cannot perpetuate this deep, damaging inequity. For generations, we have failed our students of color. We cannot afford to let another generation fall short.

I agree with her; we cannot afford to let another generation fall short. Please View the Original Post, and don’t forget that student interest in their learning material can make a dramatic difference in behavior. Help HypheNation achieve that goal by supporting our textbook line creation.


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