Restoring Community

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Here's a response a week ago to a report issued by the Department of Education stating that:

Minority students across America face harsher discipline, have less access to rigorous high school curricula, and are more often taught by lower-paid and less experienced teachers, according to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

The LA Times (Mar 10) noted that "the difference is especially stark for African American students, who make up 18% of the student population but 35% of first-time suspensions. "

Walt Gardner, writing for Education Week on March 14 ("Parsing the Racial Discipline Data") points out that the data may not be as simple to interpret as it looks. In part this is because it is not just white principals but also black principals who disproportionately discipline black students. Secondly, there is also a disparity between discipline for Asian and white students, with the white students disciplined at a higher rate, but no one is asking about prejudice in this case. Gardner also believes that student classroom disruption can not be pinned on any one group, and that many students from all backgrounds suffer when other students misbehave. Finally, he cuts through the the thicket and states:

[T]oo many students of any color are being suspended under the zero tolerance policies in place in most schools. Boards of education paint themselves into a corner when they adopt this disastrous practice. There are other more productive ways of dealing with the issue. These can range from after-school detention to the use of such programs as Restorative Practices. [emphasis added] Don't forget that when students are suspended in most states, teachers are still legally obligated to provide them with the work they missed. As a result, students are given a holiday while teachers are given more work.

Read Walt Gardner's entire post here.

Tomorrow I'll be posting about student advocates in both Philadelphia and New York City who are also addressing this issue in their communities and specifically requesting that restorative practices be used as an alternative to exclusionary discipline methods.