Discretionary Discipline and its Role in the American Educational System
April 22, 2015
By Ray Clark, SAS’17
In theory, we have always trusted our schools with the responsibility to manage our classrooms, to foster a home for learning, and to discipline children judiciously. However, the results from a study in Texas spurred the government to intervene, as the data revealed unfair prejudices in how certain populations of students are disciplined in our country.
The study, conducted by the CSG Justice Center in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University, followed 1 million students from grades 7-12. They analyzed suspension/expulsion rates and found that minorities and special needs students were disciplined at much higher rate. Because of the findings from this study, US Attorney General Eric Holder and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan decided to create the Supportive School Discipline Initiative.
The Supportive School Discipline Initiative has sought to fix the aforementioned issues, by investing in research and data collection to prevent discriminatory punishments. There has also been an effort to disseminate civil rights guidance packages to educational institutions to improve school climate. Furthermore, the Supportive School Discipline Initiative has provided community information sessions to discuss the various problems via webinars and summits. These actions have brought attention to the issue and will continue to do so as a key project for the Department of Justice and the Department of Education.
The Supportive School Discipline Initiative is important to push forward in our educational agenda. Some examples of the impact on minority and special needs students who receive unfair disciplinary action include higher likelihoods to repeat a grade, poor graduation rates, and increases the probability that the student will end up in the juvenile justice system. When students in our schools are faced with systemic discriminatory practices, the implications are far reaching. A population that is undereducated or over-exposed to the criminal justice system is detrimental for collective societal success. Therefore, this issue is imperative for our country to tackle before it tackles us.
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