Six decades after the Supreme Court mandated school integration, racial and gender disparities in school discipline stubbornly persist, according to a new study by the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Education. The report, released Friday, offers a snapshot of the experiences of 49 million students across the country from 2011 through 2012 and is based on data from all 97,000 public schools across the country. The findings are stark: Students of color, boys and girls, are suspended at three times the rate of white students, and the disparities begin in preschool.
There is also a stark gender divide.
The gender breakdown shows that nationally, 12 percent of black girls received at least one-in-school suspension, whereas the rate for white girls is 2 percent, and for white boys it is 6 percent. The highest rate is in Wisconsin, where 21 percent of black girls are suspended, compared with 14 percent of black boys, 6 percent of white boys and 2 percent of white girls. In the Washington, D.C., black girls are suspended at 13 percent, and white boys are suspended at 12 percent.
Overall, black boys are more likely to be suspended than any group, at 20 percent. The survey looked at 7.5 million black schoolchildren, 24 million white schoolchildren and about 11.5 million Hispanic schoolchildren across the country. Across all 50 states, black girls outpace their counterparts in suspensions.
“This data collection shines a clear, unbiased light on places that are delivering on the promise of an equal education for every child and places where the largest gaps remain. In all, it is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “As the president’s education budget reflects in every element — from preschool funds to Pell Grants to Title I to special education funds — this administration is committed to ensuring equity of opportunity for all.”
The report comes as President Obama has put a focus on minority boys, last month launching the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, a $200 million effort to help minority boys succeed in school.
“This critical report shows that racial disparities in school discipline policies are not only well-documented among older students, but actually begin during preschool,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Every data point represents a life impacted and a future potentially diverted or derailed. This Administration is moving aggressively to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in order to ensure that all of our young people have equal educational opportunities.”
Here are key charts from the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights Data Collection, 2011-2012 study:
1. Suspension by race and gender: Black girls are suspended at much higher rates than girls of any other race and at a rate that is higher than most boys, who make up two out of three suspensions.
2. Disparities begin early: Though African American students make up 18 percent of students enrolled in preschool, they make up nearly half of students who have had at least one out-of-school suspension.
3. Overall racial breakdown: Black students make up 16 percent of the public school population but face a much larger share of suspensions, relative to their population.