Racial Gap in School Suspensions Widens

Black students are often removed from school for minor infractions, says a new report.

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Although efforts to close the suspension gap are gaining momentum -- in 2010 U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder publicly discussed the issue -- various legislative loopholes and red tape have made both documenting and addressing the widening gap between black and white student suspensions particularly difficult.

The report suggests that government intervention, more transparency and better record keeping by schools will improve discrepancies in discipline rates. Currently, many state agencies and school districts do not release racial breakdowns of their disciplinary records. The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act requires all states to make a pledge to collect and examine disciplinary data by race and ethnicity, but the information is not required to be -- and often is not -- released to the public.

"We have to end what I call the 'Pledge of Illusions,' " Losen says. "We have to ask schools and districts their [suspension] rates."

Ultimately, schools also need to examine how effective suspensions really are, he adds, suggesting that when it comes to certain infractions, putting kids out of school seems counterintuitive. "Truancy is one of the leading reasons for suspending kids. What is the deterrent value in suspending truant kids?"

The complete report is available here.

Joshua R. Weaver is The Root's editorial intern. Follow him on Twitter.

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