An Unequal Start
Racial bias still persists in U.S. schools, and we must fix it.
Is racial bias hindering the success and well-being of our nation's children? Civil rights,racial justice scholars and activists have long answered yes; they have also continuously worked to address the structural racism they see as pervasive in our nation's institutions.
During the first night of the Democratic National Convention, the speakers addressed education and inequality at home. "It's about making sure that young people in this country are in good schools and at good jobs, not in jail cells," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and First Lady Michelle Obama both touched on critical gaps in the educational system we provide our nation's children. And last week, Donald Trump underlined the pervasive bias in his Republican National Convention nomination acceptance speech by asking, not declaring, if all American children have the same rights. "Every action I take," Trump said, "I will ask myself: Does this make better for young Americans in Baltimore, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Ferguson who have really, in every way folks, the same right to live out their dreams as any other child in America?"
But American children are not treated or protected equally – especially when it comes to education. A report last month from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights provides important and troubling data on the detrimental consequences of racial bias for students of color, and draws from the Civil Rights Data Collection from 2013-2014, which included data for 99 percent of public schools and districts in the country.
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Among the findings is that black and Latino children are disproportionately issued school suspensions as early as pre-kindergarten. Black preschoolers are 3 1/2 times more likely than their white peers to be suspended – despite an overall decline in overall suspensions nationwide.
Black students are also disproportionately expelled from schools and, along with Latino students, are more than twice as likely as their white peers to be arrested or deal with law enforcement throughout the K-12 years. The targeting of students of color for disciplinary actions is all the more troubling because, as the report points out, it is coupled with the reality that these same students are more likely to have underprepared teachers and lack advanced courses in their high schools.
These findings are echoed elsewhere, too. A recent study of Virginia public schools further evidences racial disparities in disciplinary actions taken by schools. They find that American Students of Color Are Still Not Treated to an Equal Education | US News Opinion: