Black students, and particularly boys, face much harsher discipline in public schools than other students, according to data gathered by the Department of Education about civil rights and education. One in five black boys and more than one in 10 black girls received an out of school suspension, and black students were three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.
And the Civil Rights Data Collection statistics from 2009-10, covering 72,000 schools in 7,000 districts serving about 85 percent of U.S. students K-12, showed that Hispanic and black students make up 45 percent of the student body in schools with zero-tolerance policies, but they accounted for 56 percent of students expelled under those policies. And more than 70 percent of the students involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement were Hispanic or black:
“Education is the civil rights of our generation,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a telephone briefing with reporters on Monday. “The undeniable truth is that the everyday education experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.”
The department began gathering data on civil rights and education in 1968, but the project was suspended by the Bush administration in 2006. It has been reinstated and expanded to examine a broader range of information, including, for the first time, referrals to law enforcement, an area of increasing concern to civil rights advocates who see the emergence of a school-to-prison pipeline for a growing number of students of color.
“The harsh punishments, especially expulsion under zero tolerance and referrals to law enforcement, show that students of color and students with disabilities are increasingly being pushed out of schools, oftentimes into the criminal justice system,” Deborah J. Vagins, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, told the New York Times.
Outside of discliplinary actions, the Education Department’s data showed a wide range of racial and ethnic disparities. For example, high schools with more minority students were less likely to offer calculus, but Hispanic and black students were still much less likely to take it. And black and Hispanic students made up 44 percent of students in the survey, but only 26 percent of students in the gifted and talented programs.
Duncan will announce the full results from the civil rights data this afternoon. After the data is available, it will be available here.