On November 17, 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a study which has found a bit of ink for the racial disparity aspect: minority students are more likely than white students to be arrested at school for committing similar crimes. According to the report: “In 2006-07, African American and Hispanic students together accounted for 69 percent of the student population in East Hartford, but experienced 85 percent of school-based arrests. Likewise, the same year, in West Hartford, African American and Hispanic students accounted for 24 percent of the population, but experienced 63 percent of arrests” (25). To be more specific, “African American students involved in physical altercations at school in West Hartford were twice as likely to be arrested as similarly situated white students” (26) and “in East Hartford, both African American and Hispanic students involved in disciplinary incidents involving drugs, alcohol, or tobacco were ten times more likely to be arrested than were similarly situated white students” (26). The report finds that “in West Hartford, in 2005-06, for every 1000 Hispanic students in the student population, there were 30 arrests of Hispanic students, and for every 1000 African American students, there were 43 arrests of African American students. By contrast, for every 1000 white students, there were only 5 arrests” (37). If this were not infuriating enough, the ACLU writes that the disparities with school-based arrests also:
exemplify a broader trend, observed in other school districts, toward overpunishing students of color for offenses whose definition is largely subjective. No clear objective definition exists for the terms “fight,” “physical aggression,” or “physical altercation,” so the determination that a student has engaged in such conduct may require educators to exercise considerable discretion. But research suggests that educators view certain behaviors more harshly when observed in students of color than when observed in white students (e.g., a white student who talks back is cited for “insubordination,” while an African American student engaging in the same conduct is found to have engaged in “threatening.”) (41)
This part of the report is both devastating and unsurprisingly; though I do not wish to imply that this is not serious, there is more to this report which is being overlooked.
To continue with the theme of disparities, the ACLU finds that students with disabilities are “disproportionately impacted” by school-based arrests. (more…)