Obama Administration Tackles School-to-Prison Pipeline

The administration looks to end the discrepancies in how students of different races are punished for breaking school policies.

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Eric Holder 

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The Obama administration is on a mission to end disparities in punishment when students of different racial backgrounds are disciplined in school, following data that shows that blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be punished and punished more harshly, the Associated Press reports.

According to the report, data shows that more than half of students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or black.

"In short, racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem," a letter sent to schools read, the news site said.

Fingers have long been pointed to the "school-to-prison" pipeline, aided by extreme school-discipline policies that target minority students. In the U.S., the AP notes, black students are more than three times as likely as their white counterparts to be expelled or suspended. Even though black students only made up 15 percent of the students covered in the data, they made up a third of students who have been suspended once, 44 percent of those suspended more than once and more than a third of those who ended up expelled.

"Ordinary troublemaking can sometimes provoke responses that are overly severe," Holder said in an interview Tuesday on the Rev. Al Sharpton's radio show. Holder pointed to examples such as zero-tolerance policies for offenses like truancy and smoking.

According to the AP, the government has recommended that all school personnel be trained in managing the classroom, conflict resolution and dealing with classroom disruptions that escalate. The government is also encouraging the schools to collect and monitor data so that law enforcement or security can ensure there’s no discrimination. However, the recommendations are nonbinding.

Read more at USA Today.

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