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Policymakers, judges and academics filled a modest press room at the National Press Club Wednesday morning in Washington to discuss the harsh disparities in the level of disciplinary actions between white and minority students for the same infractions — detailed in the latest report by Daniel Losen, director of UCLA’s Center for Civil Rights Remedies.  

Losen was joined by Jonathan Brice, School Support Network Officer for Baltimore City Schools, the Honorable Steven Teske, a Georgia juvenile court judge, and the University of Colorado’s Kevin Welner, director of the university’s National Education Policy Center, or NEPC. Losen explained his report’s findings, before opening the floor to the morning’s other panelists, each of whom shed light on their own experiences with severe and ineffective disciplinary systems.

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Among numerable other findings, the report, entitled “Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice”, found that school suspensions are the No. 1 indicator of future incarceration. In addition, around a third of black students with disabilities were suspended for minor, first-time infractions, while less than 15 percent of white students with disabilities were given the same penalty.

Insignificant offenses, such as cell phone use and public displays of affection, accounted for a drastically large portion of school suspensions among black students. Almost a third of black students were suspended for first-time cell phone use, while nearly half of all black students caught canoodling were suspended. While only 17 percent of white first-time cell phone offenders, and 14 percent of publicly affectionate white students, were suspended.

“We have to end what I call the ‘Pledge of Illusions,” said Losen, whose clever play on words is attributable to his son’s endearingly fumbled pronunciation of “Pledge of Allegiance.” “We have to ask schools and districts their rates,” Losen continued, referring to the mismanagement of disciplinary record file-keeping by school districts.

The complete report is available on the NEPC’s Web site.

In other news: Civil Rights Giant Fred Shuttlesworth Dies