Racial disparity in suspensions doesn’t mean minority kids should be coddled

Apr 13, 2013 by

MINNEAPOLIS – When critics point to poor academic outcomes in inner-city schools, teachers unions are quick to remind everyone that many students come from low-income homes where education is not prioritized.

keeptheminBut when Minneapolis school Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson was asked to explain why black kids are suspended for bad behavior at a higher rate than white kids, she was at a loss.

“I don’t think I can explain it,” Johnson told Minnesota Public Radio. “I can tell you that it’s disturbing, that it’s concerning, and it’s something that we must address.”

Nearly 14 percent of black students in Minneapolis were suspended from school last year, compared to just two percent of white students, the news report said.

The bet here is that many black students in Minneapolis struggle with behavior for the same reason many struggle with school work – they come from lower-income, single-parent homes where rational, constructive discipline is often lax or nonexistent.

Coming from unfortunate home environments makes social adjustment extra difficult for poor children, particularly minority kids. But the answer is not to coddle them. They have to adjust to the same societal expectations as any other children, and if they don’t start adjusting during their school years, many probably never will.

When Johnson says “it’s something we must address,” we hope she doesn’t mean giving some kids a free pass because they lack structure at home. Giving children the idea they can act any way they want because of their personal circumstances is not doing them a favor.

Race and socio-economic backgrounds should not be considerations when discipline is concerned. The simple message for all students should be this: Follow the rules and mind your manners and you will not be punished. Period.

Johnson may have a point about out-of-school suspensions:


“If we start showing a kindergartener that he or she can throw a tantrum on the floor, or throw a book, and then we suspend the kid, we’ve shown the kid you can do this again, and can go home and see Sesame Street and have cookies and milk.”

Children who are a danger to others should be suspended. But maybe non-violent kids should remain in school, in special disciplinary classrooms, where they will be forced to do their schoolwork while being denied social interaction, extracurricular activities or other more enjoyable aspects of the school day.

Simply turning kids away does nothing to address their behavioral problems. Many are left to fend for themselves because parents can’t take time off from work. Nothing is being learned. Nothing is being accomplished.

Forcing them to come to school, and doing some hard time in a special disciplinary class, would be far more productive. They will learn while being punished, and they will not enjoy the experience at all. That might make them think twice about acting out of line again.

via Racial disparity in suspensions doesn’t mean minority kids should be coddled – EAGnews.org :: Education Research, Reporting, Analysis and Commentary.

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