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New IU Research Sharpens Focus on Discipline Disparity in Schools

A series of research papers examining the disparities in school disciplinary practices released earlier this month show students of color are suspended at much higher rates. The findings were released by the Equity Project at Indiana University.

The new series of briefing papers reinforces what has been acknowledged by researchers for years – that young men of color are being over-referred and receive higher rates of out of school suspension. In Indiana, black male students are two to three-and-a-half times more likely to be suspended.

Dr. Russell Skiba is the director of the Equity Project which released the briefing papers. He says most of the students are being suspended for minor infractions.

“If we look at the behaviors where disparities occur, they aren’t at the level of weapons or drugs or serious assaults," Skiba says. "They’re really much more at the level of behaviors like non-compliance, disrespect, even loitering we found, dress code.”

He says research is just now starting to focus on the effect of bias and stereotypes in the classroom, and that it’s important to speak explicitly about race.

Skiba says many districts, like Fort Wayne Community Schools, are doing just that and self-examining their disciplinary practices.  He says the next challenge for schools nationwide will be applying district-level reform to individual schools.  

For more on this research tune in to Morning Edition and All Things Considered this Wednesday March 26th– as WBOI continues our yearlong project “The Difference” looking at black male achievement in Fort Wayne. 

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