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School Discipline and Racial Discrimination



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School Discipline and Racial Discrimination


To reduce school violence and bullying, many school districts have adopted strict policies that specify harsh punishments. A common policy involves zero-tolerance for weapons; this type of policy calls for automatic suspension or expulsion of a student who has anything resembling a weapon for any reason. However, this policy is often applied too rigidly. In one example, a 6–year-old boy in Delaware excitedly took his new camping utensil—a combination of knife, fork, and spoon—from Cub Scouts to school to use at lunch. He was suspended for having a knife and ordered to spend forty-five days in reform school. His mother said her son certainly posed no threat to anyone at school, but school officials replied that their policy had to be strictly enforced because it is difficult to determine who actually poses a threat from who does not (Urbina, 2009). [35]In another case, a ninth grader took a knife and cigarette lighter away from a student who had used them to threaten a fellow classmate. The ninth grader was suspended for the rest of the school year for possessing a weapon, even though he had them only because he was protecting his classmate. According to a news story about this case, the school’s reaction was “vigilance to a fault” (Walker, 2010, p. A12). [36]

Zero-tolerance or other very strict policies are also in place in many schools for offenses such as drug use and possession, fighting, and classroom disruption. However well intended these policies may be, the research evidence suggests that they are ineffective in deterring the behavior they are meant to prevent, and may even be counterproductive. As one review of this evidence puts it, “It is not clear that zero tolerance policies are succeeding in improving school safety. In fact, some evidence…suggests that these policies actually may have an adverse effect on student academic and behavioral outcomes” (Boccanfuso & Kuhfeld, 2011, p. 1). [37] When students are suspended, their grades may suffer, and their commitment to schooling may lower; these problems in turn increase their likelihood of engaging in delinquency. The expelled students find it difficult to get back into a school and eventually achieve a high school degree. Their behavior, too, may become more unlawful as a result, and they also are more likely to face unemployment and low-paying jobs. Zero-tolerance school discipline thus seems to do much more harm than good.

In addition to deterrence, another reason for the adoption of strict discipline policies has been to avoid the racial discrimination that occurs when school officials have discretion in deciding which students should be suspended or expelled (Skiba & Rausch, 2006). [38] In school districts with such discretion, African American students with weapons or “near weapons” (such as a small penknife) are more likely than white students with the same objects to be punished in this manner. However, a growing body of research finds that African American and Latino students are still more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled for similar misbehaviors (having a weapon, fighting, cursing a teacher, etc.) even in school districts with very strict discipline (Welch & Payne, 2010; Lewin, 2012). [39] School discipline, then, is often racially discriminatory.

KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • Schools in America are unequal: They differ greatly in the extent of their funding, in the quality of their physical facilities, and in other respects. Jonathan Kozol calls these differences “savage inequalities.”

  • Single-sex education at the secondary level has become more popular. Preliminary evidence indicates that this form of education may be beneficial for several reasons, but more evidence on this issue is needed.

  • Although school violence has declined since the 1990s, it continues to concern many Americans. Bullying at school is a common problem and can lead to more serious violence by the children who are bullied.

  • School choice programs are popular but also controversial. Charter schools on the average do no better than public schools, and sometimes worse.



FOR YOUR REVIEW


  1. If you were the principal of a middle school, would you favor or oppose single-sex classes? Explain your answer.

  2. Do you favor or oppose school vouchers? Why?

[1] Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities: Children in America’s schools. New York, NY: Crown.

[2] Kozol, J. (1967). Death at an early age: The destruction of the hearts and minds of negro children in the Boston public schools. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

[3] Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities: Children in America’s schools. New York, NY: Crown.

[4] Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities: Children in America’s schools. New York, NY: Crown.

[5] Keating, D., & Haynes, V. D. (2007, June 10). Can DC schools be fixed? The Washington Post, p. A1.

[6] Federal Education Budget Project. (2012). K–12: Pennsylvania. Retrieved January 2, 2012, from http://febp.newamerica.net/k12/PA.

[7] Dillon, S. (2011, December 1). Districts pay less in poor schools, report says. New York Times, p. A29.

[8] Ocean Discovery Institute. (2011). Believe: A PEN in the classroom anthology. San Diego, CA: Author.

[9] Kozol, J. (2005). The shame of the nation: The restoration of apartheid schooling in America. New York, NY: Crown.

[10] Orfield, G., Siegel-Hawley, G., & Kucsera, J. (2011). Divided we fail: Segregated and unequal schools in the Southland. Los Angeles, CA: Civil Rights Project.

[11] Lukas, J. A. (1985). Common ground: A turbulent decade in the lives of three American families. New York, NY: Knopf.

[12] Vopat, M. C. (2011). Magnet schools, innate talent, and social justice. Theory and Research in Education, 9, 59–72.

[13] National Conference of State Legislatures. (2011). Publicly funded school voucher programs. Retrieved January 2, 2012, from http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=12942.

[14] Crone, J. A. (2011). How can we solve our social problems? (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.

[15] DeLuca, S., & Dayton, E. (2009). Switching social contexts: The effects of housing mobility and school choice programs on youth outcomes. Annual Review of Sociology, 35(1), 457–491.

[16] Cooper, K. J. (1999, June 25). Under vouchers, status quo rules. The Washington Post, p. A3.

[17] National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. (2012). Why charter schools? Retrieved January 11, 2012, from http://www.publiccharters.org/About-Charter-Schools/Why-Charter-Schools003F.aspx.

[18] Ravitch, D. (2010, March 8). Why I changed my mnd about school reform. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved fromhttp://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704869304575109443305343962.html; Rosenfeld, L. (2012, March 16). How charter schools can hurt. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/17/opinion/how-charter-schools-can-hurt.html?emc=tnt&tntemail0=y.

[19] Center for Research on Education Outcomes. (2009). Multiple choice: Charter school performance in 16 states. Stanford, CA: Author.

[20] Basile, M. (2010). False impression: How a widely cited study vastly overstates the benefits of charter schools. New York, NY: Century Foundation.

[21] National Association for Single Sex Public Education. (2011). Advantages for boys. Retrieved January 2, 2012, from http://www.singlesexschools.org/advantages-forboys.htm.

[22] US Department of Education. (2005). Single-sex versus secondary schooling: A systematic review. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.

[23] Halpern, D. F., Eliot, L., Bigler, R. S., Fabes, R. A., Hanish, L. D., Hyde, J., et al. (2011). The pseudoscience of single-sex schooling. Science, 333, 1706–1707.

[24] Barnett, R. C., & Rivers, C. (2012, February 17). Why science doesn’t support single-sex classes. Education Week. Retrieved fromhttp://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/02/17/21barnett.h31.html?tkn=XNPFPP3DSaPBokSRePilYv9tz%2FsDy4SQ5jGa&cmp=ENL -EU-VIEWS1.

[25] Child Trends. (2011). Research-based responses to key questions about the 2010 Head Start impact study. Washington, DC: Author; Downey, D. B., & Gibbs, B. G. (2012). How schools really matter. In D. Hartmann & C. Uggen (Eds.), The Contexts Reader (2nd ed., pp. 80–86). New York, NY: W. W. Norton; Garces, E., Thomas, D., & Currie, J. (2003). Longer-term effects of Head Start. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation; Reynolds, A. J., Temple, J. A., Ou, S.-R., Arteaga, I. A., & White, B. A. B. (2011, July 15). School-based early childhood education and age-28 well-being: Effects by timing, dosage, and subgroups. Science, 360–364; Terzian, M., & Moore, K. A. (2009). What works for summer learning programs for low-income children and youth: Preliminary lessons from experimental evaluations of social interventions. Washington, DC: Child Trends.

[26] Zuckoff, M. (1999, May 21). Fear is spread around nation. The Boston Globe, p. A1.

[27] Zuckoff, M. (1999, May 21). Fear is spread around nation. The Boston Globe, p. A1.

[28] National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2010). Understanding school violence fact sheet. Washington, DC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[29] Moon, B., Hwang, H.-W., & McCluskey, J. D. (2011). Causes of school bullying: Empirical test of a general theory of crime, differential association theory, and general strain theory. Crime & Delinquency, 57, 849–877.

[30] St. George, D. (2011, September 5). Bullying linked to lower school achievement. The Washington Post. Retrieved fromhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/bullying-linked-to-lower-school-achievement/2011/09/01/gIQArmQw4J_story.html.

[31] US Department of Health and Human Services. (2012). What is bullying? Retrieved January 5, 2012, from http://www.stopbullying.gov/topics/what_is_bullying/index.html.

[32] National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2010). Understanding school violence fact sheet. Washington, DC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[33] Adams, F. D., & Lawrence, G. J. (2011). Bullying victims: The effects last into college.American Secondary Education, 40(1), 4–13.

[34] Tan, S. (2011, September 20). Teenager struggled with bullying before taking his life.The Buffalo News. Retrieved fromhttp://www.buffalonews.com/city/schools/article563538.ece.

[35] Urbina, I. (2009, October 11). It’s a fork, it’s a spoon, it’s a…weapon? New York Times, p. A1.

[36] Walker, A. (2010, January 23). Vigilance to a fault. The Boston Globe, p. A12.

[37] Boccanfuso, C., & Kuhfeld, M. (2011). Multiple responses, promising results: Evidence-based, nonpunitive alternatives to zero tolerance. Washington, DC: Child Trends.

[38] Skiba, R. J., & Rausch, M. K. (2006). Zero tolerance, suspension, and expulsion: Questions of equity and effectiveness. In C. M. Evertson & C. S. Weinstein (Eds.), Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues (pp. 1063–1089). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

[39] Welch, K., & Payne, A. A. (2010). Racial threat and punitive school discipline. Social Problems, 57(1), 25–48; Lewin, T. (2012, March 6). Black students face more discipline, study suggests. New York Times, p. A11.



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