That headline could go down as the greatest clickbait of all time if it weren’t for the fact that a new report found that—regardless of the racial makeup of the school, the type of punishment, the level of poverty in the school or grade level—black students are much more likely than their white counterparts to be punished in school.
The Government Accountability Office, studying Department of Education civil rights data, found some disturbing trends. To be honest, whenever a government, educational or nonprofit entity studies anything about how America treats black kids, I write “___ found some disturbing trends” before I even look at the results because being a black child in America is one big fucking disturbing trend.
But I digress.
The GAO found that black students are overrepresented in the disciplinary data, which is a very nice way of saying that black children are punished more often and receive harsher punishments than white kids. “These disparities were widespread and persisted regardless of the type of disciplinary action, level of school poverty or type of public school attended,” the report explains (pdf).
For example, at every level of discipline, the GAO found that white kids were underrepresented and black kids were overrepresented. In fact, black students were most overrepresented in the areas that allowed school officials to arrest, kick out or suspend the black kids (out-of-school suspension, corporal punishment and school-related arrest).
It was true regardless of gender. If students were black, they received more punishment.
I know you’re thinking this has something to do with resources or poverty levels. When it comes to racism, people love to use the “lack of resources” as an excuse. I don’t exactly know what these mythical resources are supposed to do, but unless they are brain surgeons who can identify and suck the racism out of white brains, I doubt resources will solve the problem.
Plus, the GAO found that black children still received harsher punishments at schools where there was almost no poverty. Black children were over-punished at regular public schools, charter schools, magnet schools and alternative schools. It does not matter where children attend school. If they are black, they are disciplined at a higher level.
Now, there are some valid explanations for this phenomenon:
Maybe white kids are better-behaved: I almost bought into this theory until I remembered how white kids act in the cereal aisles of supermarkets. Plus, they call their parents by their first names and start cussing when they’re only in the third grade. I’m sure you’ve seen Lucas screaming to his mom in Target: “This is bullshit, Samantha! No one eats Cherrios! I want Cookie Crisps, goddamnit!”
The school-to-prison pipeline: I don’t believe in the school-to-prison pipeline, but before I knew what it was, I always wanted to get on it. I thought it was the scariest name for an amusement park waterslide ever. If you’re black in America, everything is a to-prison pipeline. There’s a work-to-prison pipeline. There’s a smoking-weed-to-prison pipeline and even a prison-to-prison pipeline. I prefer to call it by its traditional name:
Black people are genetically inferior: We must at least consider this one. In fact, we have to actually think about this one the most because it is the only one that can explain the results of this study without schools having to face a sad reality.
Maybe black children’s DNA is encoded with something that makes them act up more no matter their level of poverty, the education of their parents, their grade level or where they attend school. Maybe black people are predisposed to break the rules. Perhaps it doesn’t matter what the rules are, black people just have a biological need to break them. As silly as this hypothesis sounds, it must be considered because there is only one other logical explanation for this phenomenon:
School, like America, is racist.