School Discipline

Virginia Alvino / WBOI News

This week for our series The Difference, we’re taking a look at school discipline, and how it affects students of color.

So far we’ve learned how a series of small punishments can have big effects on students’ lives through the school to prison pipeline. We’ve also heard about alternative discipline plans that work to prevent that snowballing effect, and keep kids in the classroom.

Fort Wayne Community Schools is among the districts that have implemented a new plan, and they say slowly but surely, it’s helping close their discipline gap.  

We continue our series The Difference, exploring black male achievement - today, on a statewide level.

Even when the Indiana General Assembly isn’t in session, lawmakers meet in interim study committees to discuss complex issues facing the state. A few weeks ago, the education committee tackled school discipline.

Those who testified claimed that Indiana’s discipline code is punitive and inconsistent with research, and that suspensions and expulsions disproportionately affect students of color.

Virginia Alvino / WBOI News

Being disciplined in schools can have major long term ramifications for boys of color.

Every kid first learns how to behave – at home. Sometimes with formal rules, sometimes by just observing others. But different styles and standards are brought together when all those kids enter the same classroom. Combine that with cultural diversity, and classroom management becomes a big challenge.

Russell Skiba

Researchers have known for years that black male students are disciplined in schools more frequently than their white peers.

New research from Indiana University confirms that gap exists nationwide, but it goes a step further – black girls, Latinos, and gay students are also at risk of being over-referred and suspended from school.

The new studies find suspensions are often given for relatively small offenses, things like loitering and dress code violations.

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.