It’s no secret that our country incarcerates people of color at much higher rates than white people. What might be less well known is that this can begin in the classroom.
Across the country, schools routinely punish, suspend, and expel students of color at higher rates than white students — setbacks that can follow students for years. Those were the findings of a new Institute for Policy Studies report called Students Under Siege.
I saw this firsthand going to school in Indiana. A report by the Indiana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that Indiana “ranks second in the country in its rate of black male out-of-school suspensions” and “ranks fourth in the rate of black female out-of-school suspensions.”
It’s not an issue of one group “misbehaving” more than another. An Indiana University study found that black and Latino students are suspended for much more subjective reasons than their white peers. For instance, a white student might be suspended for smoking, while a black, Latino, or Latina student might be suspended for the much murkier offense of being “disruptive.”
I watched the same pattern play out at William Henry Harrison, the West Lafayette, Indiana high school I graduated from in 2015. Despite students of color making up less than a quarter of its student body, they’re overrepresented in suspension rates.
In 2015, 20 percent of black students, 12.3 percent of Latino and Latina students, and 10.5 percent of students identifying with two or more races received in-school suspensions. Numbers were similar for out-of-school suspensions, and rose considerably for students who were expelled: Half were Latino and a quarter were black.
What can schools do to combat these suspensions rates? Portage High…