Students of color experience more negative outcomes with education than white students. According to a report by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education, students of color experience more suspensions, poorer quality teachers, and have access to fewer advanced math and science courses. The findings, released March 14, 2014, are based on 2012 data. The results are consistent with recent Arkansas research showing similar concerns for minority and low-income students.
According to the OCR research, even as early as preschool, black students face harsher discipline than other students. Blacks make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment, but account for almost half of all preschool children who are suspended more than once. These national findings are troubling and set the pattern for disparities that continue throughout the K-12 setting.
An August 2012 report by Losen and Gillespie reported that Arkansas ranked 15th in the nation in the use of out-of-school suspension for all K-12 students, and 13th in the gap between black and white students in out-of-school suspensions. The study found black students in Arkansas were suspended at a risk factor (the number of students suspended at least once as a percentage of their enrollment in the state) of 18.5 percent while white students had a risk factor of 5.3 percent. That means the gap of between the two is 13.2 percent. In other words black students were suspended about 3.5 times as often as white students.
AACF found that the disparity in school disciplinary actions has increased for in-school suspension, out-of-school suspension, and corporal punishment. In 2012 black students received in-school-suspension almost three times as often as white students, out-of-school suspension more than five times as often as white students, and corporal punishment almost twice as often as white students.
According to the OCR data, “black students represent 16 percent of the student population, but 32-42 percent of students suspended or expelled. In comparison, white students also represent a similar range of between 31-40percent of students suspended or expelled, but they are 51 percent of the student population.” Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. On average, five percent of white students are suspended, compared to 16 percent of black students.
Numbers for students referred to law enforcement are even more disparate. “While black students represent 16 percent of student enrollment, they represent 27 percent of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest. In comparison, white students represent 51% of enrollment, 41% of students referred to law enforcement, and 39% of those arrested.”
A summary of OCR disciplinary findings can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/crdc-discipline-snapshot.pdf.
Research on inequities in school discipline keeps coming. Many school districts are working hard to improve school discipline and student engagement for all their students. Other districts have far to go. In the wake of research AACF completed in early 2013, legislation was passed (Act 1329 of 2013) to require the Department of Education to complete an analysis of discipline in the K-12 setting and report its findings to the State Board of Education by July 1, 2014. In July, the public should give careful consideration to the results of the Arkansas Department of Education report. Solutions that foster the success of all students must be demanded.
 Losen and Gillespie, Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact, 2012.