Eric Holder: Texas School Suspensions 'Wake-Up Call'

School discipline-disparity rates raise flag.

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Attorney General Eric Holder disturbed by school punishment data. (Getty)

Julianne Hing of ColorLines is reporting that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder believes the data showing that black and Hispanic students in Texas are disproportionately disciplined and suspended is a "wake-up call." Troubling news about the impact of zero-tolerance policies in schools surfaced last week when the Justice Center at the Council of State Governments released findings from a six-year study that showed nearly 60 percent of Texas public school students had been expelled or suspended at least once between the seventh and 12th grades. The report also found that in Texas, as in the rest of the country, black and Latino students were punished at higher rates than their nonblack and non-Latino classmates.

The study found, for example, that 83 percent of black males had at least one disciplinary action on their record that ended with them being removed from school. Seventy percent of Latino males had been similarly disciplined at least once, though 59 percent of white males had the same record. The study found that 70 percent of black female students had been disciplined, though just 37 percent of white female students had been, often for identical offenses.

Over the course of the study, 1 million students were suspended or expelled, and those students who were disciplined this way were also more likely to drop out or have to repeat a grade.

In response to the findings, the departments of Justice and Education are starting the Supportive School Discipline Initiative, a joint program to encourage schools to use alternative measures to deal with disciplinary programs before calling police officers.

That's a start. How sad is it that it takes such gross disparities to promote alternative means of discipline? Those "alternative" means of discipline clearly have already been in place for nonblack and non-Hispanic students who commit the same offenses but aren't disciplined the same way. We keep waiting for this postracial thing to kick in, but it's not on the horizon anytime soon, particularly in American institutions like the school system.

Read more at ColorLines.

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