ACLU report: Identifying School-to-Prison Pipeline in State
Pandagon has an excellent post up about racism and racial stereotyping within the Michigan school systems. Full disclosure: The author works for the ACLU in Michigan. You can read the ACLU report entitled “Reclaiming Michigan’s Throwaway Kids: Students Trapped in the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” here. The report addresses the disciplinary practices which are highly suspect and disproportionate with regard to African-American students in the state. A few highlights of the Pandagon article:
One of the things the report discusses is the vastly disproportionate numbers of punishments that black students receive – in Ann Arbor, for instance, black students make up 18% of students but 58% of suspensions, with numbers like these are repeated in districts across the state. I’ve had this discussion with people before, and the explanations for this usually attempt to pin it on parental involvement, or culture, somehow believing that the apogee of black culture is mouthing off to a teacher, because that makes sense.
I have a basic rule in life: if a group of people seem to be acting illogically given what are seemingly clear reasons not to, then there’s likely something else at work. We could accept that black kids and black families are just drastically more likely to train themselves to do disruptive things that will be cracked down on in schools, but that makes virtually no sense whatsoever. I think there are a couple of things at work, the first being that assumption by many teachers that black students and black males in particular are more aggressive and therefore more likely to transgress initially. The second is that, from the perspective of black students, being more likely to be treated in a capricious and heavy-handed manner by authority figures makes you less likely to respect those authority figures.
In my mind, it’s logical to have less respect for authority figures when you are constantly being treated ‘capriciously’ by the asshole in charge because of the color of your skin or because of your sex. This paragraph in the Pandagon article really hit it for me:
Any more, many schools don’t do detention, they just suspend or expel. Combined with zero tolerance policies, often for subjective transgressions, being a grade school or high school student is perilous – whether you behave well or behave poorly, your continued presence in school is often subjected to the whims of teachers or administrators in dealing with you.
With all the budget cuts, they don’t have the teachers to hold detention after school anymore. It’s also a lot easier and cheaper, to expel or suspend a child. From the ACLU report:
Through its research the ACLU found that disproportionate discipline towards African American students was apparent in the majority of the school districts examined in the study. For instance, in the Ann Arbor School District during the 2006/07 school year, black students accounted for 18 percent of a secondary school student population, but they received 58 percent of suspensions. This trend is reflected in school districts statewide.
“In school district after school district, from one end of the state to another, we found that black kids are consistently suspended in numbers that are considerably disproportionate to their representation in the various student populations,” said Mark P. Fancher, ACLU of Michigan Racial Justice Project staff attorney and principal author of the report. “More alarming still are studies we examined that show that the behavior of black kids and white kids is essentially the same, and black kids are still kicked out of school proportionately more often. This is true regardless of socio-economic factors and geography.”
Racial stereotyping is alive and well isn’t it? Damn it..damn it all.