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Black students face tougher discipline in Chicago and the U.S.

Secretary EducatiArne Duncan speaks during forum educatiAmerican University WashingtFriday March 2 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speaks during a forum on education at American University in Washington, Friday, March 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Updated: April 10, 2012 10:31AM



African American students receive disproportionately harsher discipline than non-minorities in schools nationwide — and especially in Chicago, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday.

Duncan, Chicago’s Schools CEO until 2009, said the “most alarming findings’’ in a new analysis of school equity issues involved “the sad fact’’ that minority students face “much harsher discipline” than non-minorities and “some of the worst discrepancies are in my home town of Chicago.’’

Although African American students represented 45 percent of the Chicago Public School enrollment in 2009-2010, 76 percent of students receiving at least one out-of-school suspension that year were black, new federal data from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights showed.

That means CPS’s African American students were five times as likely to be suspended as their white peers, relative to their presence in the overall student population. That’s the third-highest black-white suspension ratio among 20 big-city districts examined, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of the federal data indicated.

The new data emerged just as students from Voices of Youth in Chicago Education calculated that CPS students lost 306,731 days of school last school year due to out-of-school suspensions. Students said too many CPS schools are too quick to suspend — especially for non-violent incidents — and too lax to talk out problems with students.

In Chicago, disruptive behavior on a bus results in a five-day out-of-school suspension but in Baltimore and Denver, other options are used first, a VOYCE analysis indicated. One CPS student said she was suspended for 10 days in September because she did not wear her uniform and failed to display her student identification at Robeson High School.

CPS’s suspension policy is “too harsh,’’ said another, Victor Alquicira. “They throw around suspensions as if they were nothing.’’

Duncan said that when he was Chicago Schools CEO, he was “troubled’’ by data indicating that a small number of CPS schools were generating a high number of arrests — ”the vast majority for minor or petty things, things that could have been much better handled than by picking up the phone and calling police.’’ Two adjacent schools could have wildly different arrest rates, merely because of the difference in the “adult response’’ to a problem, he said.

Duncan said he tried to implement more peer juries and rewards for positive behavior, but “Chicago, like a lot of districts, has a long way to go.’’ A database similar to that released by his department would have been helpful when he was Chicago Schools CEO, Duncan said.

A CPS spokeswoman said current Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard is trying to encourage alternatives to out-of-school suspensions, created a position of director of Youth Development and Positive Behavior to attack the problem and is working on revisions to the student disciplinary code.

Some signs of progress are indicated in an expulsion rate that has dropped by 43 percent compared to the same time period last year, said CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler.

Other federal data Monday indicated that nationally, minority students have less access to rigorous high school curricula and are more often taught by lower-paid and less experienced teachers.

“The undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise,’’ Duncan said. “It is our collective duty to change that.’’

Suspensions in the 20 largest public school systems

Size rank District Students suspended & student enrollment White African-American Hispanic Asian/ Pacific Islander American Indian
1 New York Suspensions 8% 46% 42% 2% 1%
Enrollment 14% 40% 40% 15% 0.4%
2 Los Angeles Suspensions 4% 26% 67% 3% 0.4%
Enrollment 9% 9% 75% 7% 0.3%
3 Chicago Suspensions 3% 76% 20% 0.3% 0.3%
Enrollment 9% 45% 42% 4% 0.2%
4 Dade County, Fla. (Miami) Suspensions 4% 50% 46% 0.3% 0.1%
Enrollment 9% 25% 65% 1% 0.1%
5 Clark County, Nev. (Las Vegas) Suspensions 25% 25% 45% 5% 1%
Enrollment 34% 14% 42% 10% 1%
6 Broward County, Fla. (Fort Lauderdale) Suspensions 17% 59% 23% 1% 0.3%
Enrollment 28% 39% 29% 4% 0.3%
7 Houston Suspensions 3% 45% 51% 1% 0.4%
Enrollment 8% 26% 63% 3% 0.3%
8 Hillsborough County,, Fla. (Tampa) Suspensions 25% 46% 28% 1% 0.2%
Enrollment 44% 23% 30% 3% 0.3%
9 Fairfax County, Va. (outside Washington D.C.) Suspensions 28% 27% 31% 13% 0.3%
Enrollment 48% 11% 20% 22% 0.3%
10 Philadelphia Suspensions 7% 77% 14% 1% 0.1%
Enrollment 13% 62% 17% 7% 0.2%
11 Palm Beach County , Fla. Suspensions 20% 57% 22% 1% 1%
Enrollment 38% 29% 29% 3% 1%
12 Orange County, Fla. (Orlando) Suspensions 16% 53.7% 29% 1% 0.2%
Enrollment 34% 28% 33% 5 0.5%
13 Gwinnett County, Ga. (outside Atlanta) Suspensions 16% 43% 32% 4% 1%
Enrollment 34% 28% 26% 11% 0.5%
14 Dallas Suspensions 3% 48% 48% 0.3% 0.5%
Enrollment 4% 25% 69% 1% 0.4%
15 Montgomery County, Md. (outside Washington D.C.) Suspensions 17% 52% 27% 5% 0.1%
Enrollment 38% 23% 23% 17% 0.3%
16 Wake County, N.C. (Raleigh) Suspensions 25% 57% 17% 2% 0.3%
Enrollment 57% 24% 12% 7% 0.3%
17 San-Diego Suspensions 12% 24% 57% 7% 0.5%
Enrollment 24% 11% 48% 17% 0.4%
18 Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C. Suspensions 14% 75% 10% 0.5% 0.5%
Enrollment 33% 44% 17% 5% 0.4%
19 Prince George's County, Md. (outside Washington, D.C.) Suspensions 2% 87% 10% 1% 0.4%
Enrollment 4% 71% 20% 3% 0.4%
20 Duval County, Fla. (Jacksonville) Suspensions 22% 72% 6% 1% 0.1%
Enrollment 42% 46% 8% 4% 0.2%


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