Study: ‘Family Structure’ a Major Factor in Racial Disparities in School Conduct and Suspensions

Nov 25, 2019 by

11.23.19 — Breitbart

“Study: ‘Family Structure’ a Major Factor in Racial Disparities in School Conduct and Suspensions”

By Dr. Susan Berry

Excerpts from this article:

A new study affirms what many public policy analysts say is intuitive — that unstable family structure, including chaotic households and single-parent homes, is a primary factor in racial disparities in school behavior and suspensions.

The study, conducted by senior fellows Nicholas Zill and W. Bradford Wilcox at the Institute for Family Studies, asserts education policymakers “must recognize that social and psychological problems in youth may manifest themselves at school but have their origins in family situations over which the school has little or no control.”

NEW: On Black-White divide in school suspensions

More than 50% of gap explained by Family Structure
-White children in non-intact families *more likely to be suspended* than black children in intact families

The authors find in their new analysis of the National Household Education Survey (NHES) that, in 2016, about 24 percent of black elementary and high school students had been suspended at least once, while eight percent of white students and only four percent of Asian students had the same experience.

The researchers note the NHES shows “black students are far more likely to be living apart from their married birth parents in the home (72%) compared to white students (37%) or Asian students (26%).”

“These family structure differences, then, are likely to play a role in inter- and intra-racial disparities in student conduct and discipline,” the authors state, and add:

Indeed, among black students who do live with both married birth parents, suspension rates are less than half as large as those for black students living in other family types: 12% versus 28%. The suspension rate for black students living in intact families, 12%, is also less than the suspension rate for white students from non-intact families, 13%.

The study also found that family structure even accounts for more of the racial disparities in school suspensions than socioeconomic factors.

When the researchers controlled for family structure, they discovered the racial disparities in school suspensions reduced by 55 percent. Controlling for socioeconomic status reduced the racial differences by only 38 percent.

“These results, then, suggest that family structure is a signal factor in accounting for real differences in school conduct and school suspensions,” the authors state. “This is especially noteworthy because discussions related to racial disparities in school discipline often overlook the role of family structure and highlight socioeconomic explanations.”

Zill and Wilcox assert that, while examples of racism exist, “there are legitimate reasons for believing that some of the racial differences in school suspensions and discipline are based upon real, not just perceived, differences in students’ behavior”:

We focus here on the possibility that some of these differences are related to family factors, including notable differences in family structure by race.

Students who come from chaotic homes, single-parent families, or non-intact families are less likely to get the consistent attention, affection, and discipline they need to flourish and develop self-control.

Their families typically have less money, which affects the quality of their neighborhoods and their neighborhood peers, which is also an important influence on school conduct. And they are also more likely to be exposed to conflict, stress, frequent moves, and neglect—all risk factors for delinquent and disruptive behavior.

Indeed, our data indicate that rates of school contact for student misbehavior are nearly twice as high among students living with separated or divorced parents as among those living with stably married parents. And they are higher still among students who live apart from both biological parents, being cared for instead by grandparents or foster parents.

The researchers say that, in order to see a drop in school suspensions among black children and adolescents, black family life must be stabilized and reinforced:

Such efforts should include criminal justice reform, ending marriage penalties in means-tested policies, subsidizing the wages of low-income workers, and launching local and national campaigns directed by black religious, civic, and cultural leaders to strengthen marriage in the black community.

Efforts like these are needed because, our research suggests, increasing the number of African American children who are raised by stably married parents would dramatically increase the odds that black girls and boys steer clear of the principal’s office—and increase the odds they flourish in school, avoid contact with the criminal justice system, and, later in life, excel in the labor force further down the road.

…The study comes as Obama-era holdovers and other progressives continue the narrative that racial disparities in school suspensions and discipline are due to systemic factors such as institutional racism.

The Obama Departments of Education and Justice, under Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder, issued public school guidelines that claimed students of color are “disproportionately impacted” by suspensions and expulsions, a situation they said led to a “school-to-prison pipeline” that discriminates against minority and low-income students.

The policy, however, essentially blamed systemic racism for the fact that black and other minority students have been punished and suspended more than white and Asian students. Recommended remedies for the problem included eliminating suspensions for unacceptable behavior by minority students and urging, instead, their participation in “restorative talking circles” and “positive behavior interventions.”

In December 2018, the Trump administration revoked the Obama-era policy that urged public schools to employ these more lenient forms of discipline for students of color and of other minority groups.

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice rescinded the Obama administration’s 2014 “Dear Colleague Letter” that a federal school safety commission said “may have paradoxically contributed to making schools less safe.”

The outcry from parents, teachers, some media outlets, and many education analysts and stakeholders has been piercing, with most pointing to the rise in “dangerousness” in public schools.

…the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) issued its analysis indicating a rise in serious incidents of violence in the nation’s public schools:

NEW FINDING: During SY 2017–18, an estimated 962,300 violent incidents occurred in U.S. public schools nationwide.

Even a Democrat state lawmaker — New York State Sen. Leroy Comrie — and Teamsters President Gregory Floyd, who represents school safety officers — referred to the Obama-era policy as one that has led to “chaos” and a lack of “accountability” for dangerous behavior.


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