School Discipline Study Raises Fresh Questions

Alan Schwarz, New York Times, July 19, 2011

Raising new questions about the effectiveness of school discipline, a report scheduled for release on Tuesday found that 31 percent of Texas students were suspended off campus or expelled at least once during their years in middle and high school–at an average of almost four times apiece.

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The study linked these disciplinary actions to lower rates of graduation and higher rates of later criminal activity and found that minority students were more likely than whites to face the more severe punishments.

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The findings are “very much representative of the nation as a whole,” said Russ Skiba, a professor of school psychology at Indiana University who reviewed the study along with several other prominent researchers.

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Minority students facing discipline for the first time tended to be given the harsher, out-of-school suspension, rather than in-school suspension, more often than white students, the study said. (The nature of the offenses was not noted.) A disproportionate number of minority students also ended up in alternative classrooms, where some have complained that teachers are often less qualified.

“What we really need to do is go in to those districts and see if these really are choices being made,” Mr. Skiba said. “We don’t really know enough about the reasons for African-American and Latino over-representation in school discipline. We have enough data to show that it’s more than just poverty and any greater misbehavior. My guess is it’s very subtle interactional effects between some teachers and students.”

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  • Question Diversity

    http://goo.gl/IPhKD

    That figure goes up to 60% if you also include in-school suspensions.

  • THE MAN

    Why when black kids are disciplined does there always have to be a study done? I am sure the teachers are not grabbing kids that are behaving. We spend too much time trying to bend over backwards trying to figure out things that should be obvious.

    You act up you get disciplined simple! QUIT making excuses for these people! In a normal society people have to take responsibility for their poor behavior. I believe the schools will eventually set up percentages for discipline to make it equal regardless if the whites misbehave or not — that is how sick these institutions have become!

  • Anonymous

    The out of school suspensions will be weighted towards violence and illegal activity. Whereas the in school suspensions will be weighted towards insubordination.

  • sbuffalonative

    Our old friend the New York Times asking troubling questions

    The study linked these disciplinary actions to lower rates of graduation and higher rates of later criminal activity and found that minority students were more likely than whites to face the more severe punishments.

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

    Does poverty produce troublemakers or are natural born troublemakers likely to suffer from poverty?

    Since we’ve tried every enrichment program anyone can think of, I have to side with the latter.

    (I will add that poverty, to some extent, does produce troublemakers. There is a socialization aspect here which I don’t deny. However, low IQ people tend to make poor choices which exacerbates their plight. The question is how much intervention can be done to help low IQ people make better choices?)

  • Anonymous

    I have ONE very uncomfortable question about the study. What color are the teachers?

    I am willing to bet that many, if not most of the teachers and administrators in the schools are people of color themselves.

    So, why are the black/Hispanic teachers treating the minority kids so badly. I taught in an all black school. I mean 99.999 percent black. Some of the teachers there were black Hitlers. I mean it…. real nut jobs.

  • Anonymous

    The assumption is we whites misinterpret or are too harsh on minorities, never that certain minorities’ behaviors are unacceptable. Oddly, within their own communities their behaviors are unacceptable, witness the black-on-black and black-on-white violent crime statistics.

  • Vick

    I’m sure one of the solutions will be to not penalize failing students as much or as severely.

    One of the byproducts of this decision will be that the wretched white kids in these multiracial schools will get beaten and bullied more, because racist latinos and blacks will discover that they will get away with it, or the punishments are very light.

    Heaven help working class white kids trapped in school districts with lots of non-whites.

  • southern

    I taught in an all black school almost a decade. They don’t fear jail much less any type of sactions the school might put on them.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    31 percent of Texas students were suspended off campus or expelled at least once during their years in middle and high school—at an average of almost four times apiece.

    I have nothing but utter scorn and contempt for these types of reports. AND, I believe suspension rates are closer to 60% that QD writes about above. In-house suspensions mean the school can collect the ADA money for the kid that day.

    As for the screed-y article above:

    Uh, professor, you and other “prominent researchers”, make sure you come to conclusions and publish the results of your study BEFORE you travel to Texas schools and find out WHY non-White students are being suspended so often (even though you admit: We don’t really know enough about the reasons..)

    Make sure you come to conclusions BEFORE you talk to school personnel as to why “students of color” are being suspended at such high rates.

    Yeah, you reached YOUR conclusions without haven spoken to so much as one teacher or set foot on one of these “high suspension” school. How about YOU coming down from you ivory tower and spending a week in one of these mosh pits masquerading as schools and THEN write your report. Sit in the lunch area for a few days. Talk to the cafeteria ladies. Stand by the front gate as school is letting out or in the morning when packs of kids arrive at school hours late. Make sure you talk to people who are on the firing lines of these insane asylums – ADULTS not students: some have complained that teachers are often less qualified.

    Every student I have ever failed, bar none, has complained that I am unqualified (or racist, or both). But you researchers ALWAYS publish the student or parents’ words and not ours!

    Are you starting to understand why we teachers are so vilified so often?

    Results? Another billion dollar professional development plan hatched up, complete with 200 page notebooks for each teacher, to ameliorate the subtle interactional effects between some teachers and students.

    But, why should the professor and “prominent researchers” care, they live and work miles from the schools they pontificate about.

    Bon

  • WbuMongo

    I tried to be involved in my son’s school experience as much as possible. He was involved in court ordered busing and went to a city school for grades 4-6. The city blacks were bused in for grades 1-3 and 7-12 to all schools in the district. I visited my son’s classroom often, went on every field trip, and frequently went to the school to intervene on his behalf when problems with blacks arose, as they frequently did. After visiting his 8th grade class I removed him from public school and home schooled for grades 9-12. He graduated from college with an undergraduate degree in history and a 3.9 GPA. He received a masters degree in education and taught as a student and 1 year in middle school. He is now pursuing an MBA at night and is no longer interested in teaching. After hearing some of the stories of minority behavior and the lack of consequences for unruly blacks, I don’t blame him. I don’t think the issue is a subtle interaction, minorities misbehave at a higher rate and commit more serious infractions. Example: At my son’s middle school a black girl was told she would not be permitted to watch a movie with the rest of the class because of her behaviour. She threw a cup at the teacher and cursed him. Her punishment, she saw the movie.

  • sbuffalonative

    If they really wanted to find out why minority students were being disciplined at higher rates than whites they would put hidden cameras in classrooms to study the behavior of teachers and students. This would make it clear why minority students are being ‘targeted’ (because of THEIR BEHAVIOR).

    Instead of looking at objective factors such as behavior in the classroom, they hide behind theories that have no basis in reality.

    They know the truth. They just don’t want to accept it. Hence, theory after theory after theory. There’s nothing like an untested theory to muddy the water and hide the facts.

  • What_I_Believe

    I can tell you that from real experience, at least on the East Coast, that blacks present the large majority of the behavior problems. It comes straight from home, period.

  • Bon, From the Land of Babble

    WbuMongo writes:

    After hearing some of the stories of minority behavior and the lack of consequences for unruly blacks.

    No kidding!! UP to and including all kinds of assaults, robberies and other felonies that are completely brushed off, ignored or covered up by school administrators — giving the kid the impression that he has carte blanche to commit crimes on school campuses, which in fact HE DOES!

    Schools are under tremendous pressure not to suspend or expel students “of color” and therefore try to handle things “internally”, meaning such crimes are completely overlooked or brushed aside and not put on the kid’s permanent record. I’ve always sworn that if I am assaulted in any way, I will call the local police directly, press charges and file a police report. The school offices tell us “not to do this” but I’d like to see them try to stop me when school administrators refuse to discipline violent students and protect my right to a safe environment.

    I always tell my colleagues to keep meticulous records of incidents so the administrators can’t call you into the office, by yourself, in front of the miscreant’s parents and say: “Well, Ms. B, he’s NEVER acted that way before, his school record is clean and his parent says he’s never been in trouble before, only in YOUR room — what are YOU doing to set him off?”

    She threw a cup at the teacher and cursed him. Her punishment, she saw the movie.

    This is an assault. It’s’ gotten so bad in some places that teachers completely circumvent school administrators and not only file police reports but demand TROs (temporary restraining orders) against violent students — this is why it’s imperative to file police reports and keep records yourself (don’t expect your fellow teachers or your union to back you up, they won’t). You can be sure the school or district offices, when called, will have no record of the kid’s violent, assaultive behavior. One teacher I read about got a 1,000 ft. restraining order against a violent student, meaning the kid couldn’t set foot on the school’s campus while the teacher was present.

    This is another reason seniority and tenure matter — it prevents vindictiveness or arbitrary transfers by administrators. An older, very intelligent teacher told me he keeps his lawyer’s number on his speed dial in case of trouble.

    And, yes, sbuffalonative, cameras should be mandatory in ALL classrooms — they are already in school hallways, cafeterias and buses but need to be in classrooms as well. Teachers who object are not doing their jobs — any teacher who is doing his job to the best of his ability has nothing to worry about if a camera is in his classroom — I’d ask what it is exactly he doesn’t want the camera to see.

    Bon

  • Fred

    I was hired to teach 7th grade science in a school that was about 40% African-American in Virginia. I scheduled a teacher-parent conference with the parents of a black student who was misbehaving in class, and at the meeting I was accused of calling black students racial slurs in my class. I was removed from the meeting before I could defend myself, and every day after that I was accused by another different black student of calling him racial slurs. I was ready to resign my position when my assistant principal told me that he was very aware that I had never called a black student a racist name even one time, but I still needed to be removed because I did something to the black students that made them feel they had to lie about me. I resigned the same day.

  • THE MAN

    If a person is on Welfare and they get food stamps for food. In my mind they would use this for food for themselves and their children.I would assume they would get up in the morning feed their kids breakfast and pack the kid a lunch for school.Then why is there a federal program to give them free breakfast and free lunches at school. I am buying them two breakfasts and two lunches a day . What does this have to do with this article my point is they need to take responsibility for their own behavior.We as a society teach this irresponsibility to the parents and it is passed down to the children . They act up it is always someone else’s fault and someone will make up for their failure so it reinforces this expectation of entitlement .

  • on the lam from the Thought Police

    If blacks are treated more harshly than whites for the same offense that is because blacks and whites know that blacks are more likely to be dangerous. We do not want to take chances.