America has to do better for its children, including the small Black and Brown faces that are falling through the cracks across America. Atlanta Black Star previously reported about a New York area study that found Black men are profiled more by local law enforcement, but there’s others that indicate bias may start as early as the classroom.
A new study released by nonprofit Texans Care for Children reveals that the 2017 legislation that eliminated out-of-school suspensions for students up to second grade did nothing to prevent black students from disproportionately being given in-school suspensions for non-violent, behavioral issues.
Prior to this legislation, Black students were two times more likely to receive in-school suspensions and nearly five times more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions than their white peers. Black males and those with special needs were even more likely to receive these types of punishments.
“Schools are suspending little kids as young as four years old, many of whom are in a classroom for the first time in their lives,” Texans Care for Children CEO Stephanie Rubin said via a statement. “Suspending our youngest students interrupts their education, communicates to them that they don’t belong, and misses a critical opportunity to actually address why they might be acting out,” said Rubin.
Rubin continued, “The Legislature took a huge step forward last year, but there’s more work to do for school boards, superintendents, and state leaders. School leaders need to make sure teachers get the support they need to effectively address challenging behavior in the classroom and young students get the support they need to succeed in school.”
According to the study, “There may be a detrimental effect on all students within schools that rely heavily on exclusionary discipline practices. Schools with high suspension and expulsion rates tend to have lower rates of school-wide academic achievement.”
Adding, “Schools with high suspension and expulsion rates tend to have lower rates of school-wide academic achievement. When schools do not implement school-wide positive supports, teachers and administrators find themselves spending more time addressing disciplinary matters and less time teaching.”
It also revealed that more than 64,000 Texas students from pre-K to second grade were sent to in-school suspension during the 2015-2016 school year, the majority of those being at-risk black males. Smaller school districts faced even higher rates, with Jasper ISD reportedly issuing 71 in-school suspensions to 23 students during that same time period.
The report calls on the Texas education system to address these issues, and find alternative ways to discipline students, including those with behavioral issues. Texans Care for Children suggests replacing suspensions with positive behavioral methods and other practices for young students.
Other recommendations included, “Strengthen the state’s pre-k and child care policies, including establishing a limi on pre-k class sizes, so that more children can get individual attention and instruction they need” and “Strengthen the state’s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program to ensure all children under age with disabilities and developmental delays receive the therapies and supports they need to fulfill their potential.”
The study authors said, “Students with disabilities and developmental delays are more likely to have behavioral and other challenges in early grades if they and their families do not have early access to effective occupational, speech, physical and other therapies as well as interventions that teach families how to support their child’s development.”
The report came as Texas lawmakers recently debated on conduct and discipline in the classroom during a public hearing led by state Sen. Larry Taylor. Texas legislators won’t officially meet again until 2019, but the Education Committee is currently studying the issue to identify potential legal solutions.
For many parents and guardians in Texas, frustration has grown over educators rushing to suspend students in lieu of implementing positive solutions, especially for students that are just starting their educational journeys.
Other studies, including a report from Brookings, have confirmed that racial disparities are alive and well in the American educational system. According to their report, “In 2015, the statewide African-American suspension rate was 17.8 percent, meaning 17.8 suspensions of African-Americans occurred for every 100 African-American students enrolled. The figure for Hispanics was 5.2 percent, for whites, 4.4 percent, and for Asians, 1.2 percent”
Black students in Texas face similar odds, with a study titled “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls Childhood” finding that black girls in particular are seven times more likely to be suspended than than white girls. Black boys are also profiled, viewed by some as more “threatening” than white boys.
In January, study author and Texas A&M University professor Dr. Jamilia Blake discussed the results with the Texas Standard, explaining “What the national data shows is that even outside of Texas, black children are more likely to be suspended for subjective infractions — for behaviors that are not threatening the school environment — than are white students.”
Blake further explained that the numbers demonstrate the discrimination clearly, saying, “The other thing we’re seeing is that black students are being suspended at higher rates than they’re being represented in the school. That’s an indication of bias.”
Texas still has a problem, and it’s one that’s being placed squarely on the shoulders of the future — the children.