Are Black Students Unruly? Or is America Just Racist?

By: Jamelle Bouie –

Our schools are suspending or expelling a tremendous number of black students, and it begins as early as preschool. It needs to end.
A few years ago, a Georgia elementary school made national news after a student—kindergartner Salecia Johnson—was arrested for throwing a temper tantrum in class.

According to their report, when the officer arrived, he observed kindergartner Salecia Johnson on the floor of the principal’s office screaming and crying.

The officer stated in the report that he noticed damage to school property and tried numerous times to calm the girl, who eventually “pulled away and began actively resisting and fighting with me.”

“The child was then placed in handcuffs for her safety and the officer proceeded to bring her down to the police station,” said Chief Dray Swicord.

The six-year-old was charged as a juvenile with simple battery and criminal damage to property, though this was dropped on account of her age. For as much as this was outrageous, it also wasn’t that unique. These events are far more common than you think.

ccording to data released today by the Department of Education, black students are expelled at three times the rate of white students. This extends all the way down to the youngest kids; as the New York Timesreports, “While black children make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment, close to half of all preschool children who are suspended more than once are African-American.”

This is just another reminder that blacks face a huge disparity in school discipline. In 2012, for instance the Department of Education found that blacks accounted for 35 percent of students suspended at least once, and 39 percent of all expulsions. This, despite the fact that African Americans are just 18 percent of the total student population.

And of course, there are particular places where the rates of suspension and expulsion are insane. Of the students suspended under zero tolerance policies in New Orleans in 2009, for instance, all of them were black.

Imagine two third graders—one white, one black. They’re both poor performers and they’re both disruptive in class. But whereas James, the white student, is referred to in-school counseling and receives a diagnosis (he has a learning disability), Jameis—his black counterpart—is pulled into remedial classes after his first two report cards of the year, where he stays.

By the time they reach eighth grade, James is performing on grade level, while Jameis is far behind, with worsening behavior. A scuffle with a teacher results in an arrest and expulsion, and Jameis is sent to juvenile detention for assault charges. He’s released after three years, but doesn’t return to school. Instead, a few months later, he ends up in court for drug possession—he had a few joints and $20 worth of weed on his person when he was stopped by police in front of a convenience store. For that, he’s given five years in an adult prison.

That might be a little heavy-handed as far as fictional scenarios go, but it’s not outlandish. Compared to their white counterparts, black boys are three times more likely to be placed in remedial or “problem” classes, as opposed to receiving counseling or a diagnosis. School-related arrests are depressingly common, and in 70 percent of cases, they involve black or Latino students. The same goes for referrals to law enforcement—in one Mississippi school district, for example, 33 out of every 1,000 students have been arrested or referred to a juvenile detention center, the vast majority of whom were black.

This has far-reaching consequences. Suspensions lead to more absences, as students become disconnected from the school. In one study of 180,000 Florida students, researchers found that just one suspension in ninth grade can drastically reduce a student’s chance of graduating in four years. What’s more—compared to their white peers—black teenagers are more likely to be stopped by the police and arrested for drug possession, despite similar rates of drug use.

When you put all of this together, you have a world where African American youth—boys and girls—have vastly higher rates of juvenile incarceration and are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison.

To read this article in its entirety visit: TheDailyBeast.com

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Michael Bailey

Michael is the founder and serves as the Chief-Curator of Information for The Minority Eye, South Carolina’s largest minority-owned media outlet. As the leader of the editorial staff, he works as a multimedia journalist, telling the often-overlooked stories of minority communities from across the state and throughout the region. He specializes in producing news stories and personal profiles that share and expound on cultural, social, economic and political experiences of minorities living in South Carolina and beyond. His extensive media, business, and political background have made him a well-respected voice and an often sought-after commentator on issues that impact people of color.

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