There has been many heated discussions throughout the country regarding the disparities of zero tolerance policies implemented in our nation’s public schools. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Pennsylvania released a report that outlined startling statistics regarding the number of African-American, and Latino students, and students with disabilities who were disproportionately affected by zero tolerance policies within Pennsylvania’s public schools.
The report, titled “Beyond Zero Tolerance: Discipline and Policing Pennsylvania’s Public Schools” disclosed the high numbers of minorities and students with disabilities being suspended at greater rates than their white and able-bodied peers. During the 2011-2012 academic year, there were over 166,000 out-of-school suspensions issued by school districts. To give you a better understanding of this figure, 10 out of 100 students in Pennsylvania’s public schools were suspended during this particular academic term.
The disparities in race and disability are taken into account when one reviews the number of minority and students with disabilities that attend Pennsylvania’s public schools, and how these students comprised the high percentages of students who received disciplinary action that resulted in suspension, expulsions, and arrests. African American students made up only 13.6% of the population that attended Pennsylvania schools, but they accounted for close to half of the out-of-school suspensions reported by school districts. One out of every 10 Latino students were suspended at least once during the 2011-2012 school year; this is the highest figure reported concerning Latino students and suspension in the country, according to the ACLU. Students with disabilities did not fair much better; students with disabilities were suspended at a 11.1% rate. In comparison to their peers, students with disabilities faced the fate of being twice as likely to experience suspension.
In the ACLU’s report, the organization noted the probable cause for these disparities revolved around the fact that zero tolerance policies cast out a very wide net that catches “undesirable,” or disruptive behaviors and actions. These behaviors and actions were deemed unacceptable by school districts, and are judged as grounds for punishment.
The ACLU proposed several suggestions for school districts to consider when it comes to the disparities surrounding zero tolerance policies. Full-scale review of current suspension policies, utilize intensive disciplinary actions only when there is a imminent danger to safety of the offending student and/or others, and fully evaluating the true effectiveness of law enforcement officials within the schools were a few of the recommendations issued by the ACLU.
Reading the striking findings of this report hopefully enlightens us about the covert inequities of blanket polices like zero tolerance in our public schools. Such blanket policies are detrimental to the students who are more likely to be disproportionately represented and unfairly labeled as “troublemakers.” These policies also prove to be inflexible in appropriately discerning between behaviors that are indeed disruptive to the school environment and/or place students and staff in danger versus behaviors conducted that may be due to cultural differences, problems experienced by students within the home environment, cognitive limitations, etc. Without taking these possible reasons for the occurrence of these behaviors into consideration, we end up mislabeling these students as recalcitrant and fail to look deeper into the actual cause(s) of their misconduct.
To the educators, parents, and students out there, what issues have your school districts encountered with zero tolerance policies? Have your school district reported similar trends in high percentages of suspensions, expulsions, and arrest among minority students and students with disabilities? If so, what steps have been taken to ameliorate these disparities? Do you believe zero tolerance policies work effectively at extinguishing all forms of misconduct in schools, no matter how minor or severe the behavior? Tell me your thoughts and experiences by sending an email to Vilissa@rampyourvoice.com, or by visiting my website, Ramp Your Voice!
(Featured headline image: Courtesy of WTAE.)
Connect With SWHELPER
Good Mental Health Equals a Happy Marriage
Happily married couples enjoy better mental health status, according to researchers. They fall sick less often, have fewer instances of...
The Woman Beside Me – Living in the Era of Trump
At the gym, MSNBC plays on my treadmill monitor. Coverage of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton have been...
The History of Stereotyping Homelessness in Australia
The history of homelessness in Australia stems back to our nation’s colonization by our British counterparts which moved Indigenous Australians...
Examining White Privilege: What’s the Fear?
Dickinson student Leda Fisher asks the question “Should White Boys Still be Allowed to Talk?” in her opinion piece in...
Mental Health2 months ago
6 Tips for Navigating Political Discussions at the Holiday Table
Food2 months ago
An Overabundance of Fast Food: Food Swamps Are the New Food Deserts
Aging2 months ago
Loneliness May Be Due to Increasing Aging Population
Health2 months ago
Regional Trends in Overdose Deaths Reveal Multiple Opioid Epidemics, According to New Study