Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Racial Disparities in Virginia's Disciplinary System: A Tale of Two Different Worlds?

A new report out on discipline in Virginia's school details racial disparities consistent with those found in the various other state reports that I have posted on in recent months.  As in other states, African American and white students experience discipline at far different rates.  Statewide, African Americans are twice as likely to be suspended, even when controlling for independent factors.  Yet, this is not the "two different" worlds the title of this post references.  Rather, the study distinguishes between schools that have implemented Virginia's Student Threat Assessment Guidelines versus those who have not.   The guidelines are intended to prompt schools to not react with zero tolerance or knee jerk reactions to student misbehavior, but to assess whether a student is actually a threat.  The report found that schools that implemented the guidelines imposed 15% fewer short-term suspensions and 25% fewer long term suspensions.  Schools implementing the guidelines still had racial disparities in discipline, but they were smaller than other schools in the state.  In fact, the students who saw the largest reduction in suspensions pursuant to the guidelines were African American males, whose long-term suspension rate fell from 11.2 percent to 7.6.   

The rates are still incredibly high for all students and indicate that, with or without guidelines, schools are willing to exclude students from school under questionable circumstances, but those using the guidelines may be on the path to creating a different disciplinary world for some.


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