Archived: Is Bias at the Root of Harsher Treatment of Minority Students?

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A U.S. Education Department report released this week says that African American and Hispanic students are more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their white peers. They are also likely to receive harsher punishments for the same infractions, the report found. The department, however, says it is not clear why this is happening.

If a report finds that nearly three quarters of the students involved in school related arrests or cases handed over to the police are African American or Hispanic, isn’t it reasonable to question whether there exists a bias among school administrators and teachers that has led them to conclude that these students need greater amounts of discipline than their white or Asian counterparts? Could there be a belief that Hispanic and African American students need tougher discipline to set them straight?

The report also states that a disproportionate number of African American students with disabilities are strapped down or are the recipients of other types of physical restraints.

Let’s face it; different and lower expectations for Hispanic and African American students are more than evident from the data in this report.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says that some school officials may not be aware of the inconsistencies in their handing out discipline. Well, they certainly should be aware from now on due to the report.

The Secretary says that he is not alleging overt discrimination, but the report should be an “eye-opener.”

We agree, but recognize that it’s covert actions that too often lead to higher drop rates and higher incarceration rates among African American and Hispanic youth.

So while the report also alleges other possible reasons for the higher numbers, the report lends credence to the fact that there are too many issues that are piled on ethnic and minority students, not the least of which are claims that undocumented students are draining school revenues and therefore less entitled to a good education, or that Hispanic students have lax supervision and therefore should be dealt with more harshly than their white peers.

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