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School to prison pipeline: Racial gaps in how NC disciplines students
Blacks bear brunt of suspensions, juvenile complaints
 
Published Saturday, March 20, 2021 11:00 pm
by Herbert L. White

PHOTO | CHILDREN'S DEFENSE FUND
Black students are more likely to be suspended and referred in juvenile complaints in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and across North Carolina, according to a study by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Racial disparities are still prevalent in how Black students are disciplined in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.


The fifth annual Racial Equity Report Cards study by the Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice found that Black CMS students were 7.1 times more likely than whites to be given short-term suspension. In the 2018-19 academic year, the most recent year for which data is available, Black students represented 74.3% of all short-term suspensions compared to 13.8% for Latinx and 8% for whites.


Blacks make up 36% of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s nearly 147,000 public school students, followed by whites (26.8%) and Latinx (26.6%).

The district, North Carolina’s second largest, responded with a statement by spokesman Brian Hacker:


“In the district’s Breaking the Link report, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools raised the serious concern of suspension disproportionality. In doing so the district identified a national issue with great local concern.


“Since that time we have continued to monitor out-of-school suspensions and in-school suspensions by race in our annual reporting and through our performance dashboard on the district’s website.  To reduce suspension disproportionality, a multi-faceted effort is underway that addresses disciplinary consistency, restorative practices, anti-racism and student social-emotional supports.


“As a complement to these efforts, key partnerships such as the School-Justice Partnership between CMS, Race Matters for Juvenile Justice, the Office of the District Attorney and Mecklenburg County law enforcement agencies, are working to shatter the school-to-prison pipeline in Mecklenburg County.


“Though the Covid-19 pandemic slowed down these efforts, they will resume in the fall with intensity and determination in service of all of our students, particularly those who have been historically underserved.”


While Black students made up 24.8% of children in North Carolina public schools, they received 54.9% of all short-term suspensions during the 2019-2020 school year, which ended in-person learning for students statewide in mid-March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. White students, who comprise 45.5% of all students, received 26.0% of all suspensions.


The report cards primarily use 2019-20 academic year data, which is limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on schools and students. As a result, North Carolina didn’t release data on end-of- grade and end-of-course tests at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, for example, so that information is not available.


“The changes of the past year have significantly increased attention on how safe students are in the classroom. But as school districts work to ensure students are physically safe in schools amid COVID-19 concerns, they also need to take action to protect students from the harms of institutional inequity and racism,” SCSJ chief counsel for justice system reform Tyler Whittenberg said in a statement.

“As indicated by the 2019-2020 RERCs, much work still needs to be done, including reducing the use of exclusionary discipline and limiting the number of students who enter the justice system via the classroom – two practices that disproportionately and detrimentally impact students of color throughout North Carolina.”


The report cards use public data to examine the school-to-prison pipeline, a system of policies and practices that push students into the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems. The pipeline has three main entry points: academic failure, school discipline  and court involvement. Students of color are overrepresented at each entry point in almost all of North Carolina’s 115 school districts, and once in the pipeline, academic achievement is more difficult to earn.


Black students made up 81.9% of all school-based juvenile complaints referred to the courts in fiscal year 2019, followed by Latinx (13.7%) and whites (3.1%). School-based complaints made up 21.1% of all such cases.


Statewide, Black students received 54.9% of short-term suspensions although they account for 24.8% of total enrollment in 2019-20. The data found the disproportionate suspension rate belies studies that show Blacks and whites misbehave at similar rates.


The authors note that schools have decreased suspensions in recent years while increasing other discipline measures such as in-school suspension or transfers to alternative schools. Restorative justice activists insist such punishment disrupts the learning process and are ineffective without academic and social support.


Other findings from the study include:


• Black students were 3.9 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension.


• Statewide, 29.9% of all juvenile referrals to the criminal justice system came from schools, a significant drop from 45.1% in 2018-19. However, Blacks are still disproportionately impacted, accounting for 49% of all referrals compared to 35.2% of whites.


• While 54.5% of student enrollment in North Carolina are people of color, only 23% of teachers are.   Diversity in school staff is one way to help equalize opportunities for students of color, the authors contend.


• Latinx students are the least likely demographic to graduate from high school in four years, at a rate of 81.7%. In comparison, 90.8% of whites graduate during that time span.


“Over the past year, we have seen a growing, often student-led movement, to remove school resource officers from North Carolina schools and focus on creating an environment where all students feel safe and included,” Whittenberg said. “As schools are already reimagining how they provide equal access to education to all students, we encourage them to consider the racial impacts of their actions and take further action to create an equitable learning environment for students of color.”

On the Net:
rerc.southerncoalition.org

Comments

This, and all similar studies, are faulted. The only was the statistics and ratios relevant are if all races offend at the same rate. The same is true comparing arrest and prison statistics. All races do not offend at the same rate. Obviously, a higher offender rate yields a higher suspension, arrest or incarceration rate
Posted on March 21, 2021
 

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