Race & Discipline in Schools


(This is a draft of an Essay I’m writing)

When it comes to discipline in schools there are some who think it’s about race or sex but that is only the gist of the problem because it goes deeper than just the color of a person’s skin. There are other reasons why school districts have the discipline policies that they have and as a result curtain students suffer under them when they’re enforced. I think one the reasons is that parents want schools to do more than what’s needed of them. I believe that even if the United States didn’t have a public school system the country would have some of the best schools in the world because parents would want their children to have an education because there’s a market for education which is where the private sector would take an interest and we’d see private schools popping up all over the place. In a system like that the first thing that comes to people’s minds is what about lower income people how would they pay to send their children to school. That would be solved as there would be private charities that would offer ways of paying for the schools that the parents could seek out if needed. There would also be other private schools around in their area so the tuition for the schools would be relatively cheap because of the competition between the schools to get parents to enroll their children to attend their school.

I made the claim that if the US didn’t have a public school system because I believe that even if there wasn’t one parents would be able to take their child out of a school where the discipline policy was too harsh or not up to their standards and enroll their children into a school which had a discipline policy that fits their views. The main reason I think that would work is because with public schools being catered to students in a district which in that district there are many different kinds of students. So the school has to come up with a broad discipline policy that fits over 300+ students enrolled in a school. When you have to make a policy that has to fit so many different people with varying upbringings, ethnic and racial origins then the system is bound to look as if it favors one group over another. I read an article titled “Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in School Discipline among U.S. High School Students: 1991-2005” written by John M. Wallace, Jr., Ph.D. where he writes about the a study he did that was about the racial, ethnic, and gender differences in school discipline in the study he writes, “School-based zero tolerance policies are rooted historically in federal drug policies designed to deter drug trafficking through immediate, harsh, and legally mandated punishments (Verdugo, 2002).” that is something I think that schools shouldn’t be doing at all many students that are getting in trouble it is usually for breaking such policies sometimes without even knowing because I have seen the handbooks students of this generation bring home and they are sometimes 30 pages or more when I was in school and received a student handbook it was 10 pages and it had what we couldn’t do and the school dress code if someone had broke one of the school rules depending on which one they broke and what kind of student they were would receive a punishment that fit with what they had done.

Discipline in schools can also be linked to teachers expectations of students they have in their class. For example if a teacher thinks a student isn’t going to pass their class and the student picks up on this they could start disrupting the class because in their mind they’re going to fail it anyway so why bother behaving in school or class. Though crafting a discipline plan that deters students from misbehaving without making every problem serious one because some problems can be solved with simple solutions not complex policies that are based on federal drug laws that can be easily abused. While I don’t know how to sculpt the perfect discipline policy I do know that it should begin by school officials having a discussion with parents and students about how problems at school should be handled. One way that would improve discipline in schools is for school officials to explain how they want students to act and then trust them to act that way while in school. The first step is trust and treating students as adults and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own actions would go a long way in changing the way schools discipline students.

There has been a lot of research about how discipline policies have been unfairly enforced towards black students as John M Wallace states in his article that “Virtually every study that has examined the racial differences in school discipline has found that black youth are more likely than white youth to be suspended and to be expelled.” I agree with those studies but i also agree with John M Wallace when he makes this statement “Beyond this consistent finding, however, there are at least four important areas related to racial and ethnic differences in school discipline that past research has not addressed adequately.” As you just read the studies tend to forget four important areas which doesn’t give people all of the information they need to know to be able to decide whether or not to support changing school discipline policies or to keep enforcing them as they are written.

I stated before that teacher’s expectations could be one of the reason why there are unfair punishments when it comes to discipline being handed out. For example if a teacher has a preconceived notion of how a student is going to act based on the way the student acted last year or according to their student record then that student could take that as the teacher not believing they have changed or learned from their mistakes. In Rebecca Kline’s article “Teachers Expect Less From Black and Latino Students” she states that “But teachers had lower expectations for disadvantaged students and students of color, the researchers found. Teachers thought a college degree was 47 percent less likely for African-American students than for white peers, and 53 percent less likely for low-income students than for students from more affluent families. Teachers thought Hispanic students were 42 percent less likely than white students to graduate from college, the study found.” that could also apply to what teachers think about how a student may act in their class as well because if they have a bunch of new students entering their class from a lower grade for a new school year and there are some students that were known for acting up in class then teachers may expect that the student will act up in their class as well even before the student is sitting in front of them. When I was in school I have seen this first hand with friends and myself as I have had some of the same teachers as my older brother and the teacher expected me to be just like him in their class. With friends and noticing other students in the school I have seen teachers warn students that they wouldn’t “put up with misbehaviour in class” they were speaking to the whole class but you could tell from the tone of their voice that they were addressing certain students because they alway ended the statement with the phrase “you know who you are”. That is something that should not happen in school because it’s like that because these students got in trouble last year that they’ll get in trouble during the new school year as well. Teachers shouldn’t expect that because a student has gotten in trouble in the past that they’ll get in trouble later on in life as I have also heard teachers talk down to students saying things like “if you keep acting this way then you’ll end up in prison” even if their intent was to help them but how they phrased what they were saying makes it sound like they’re belittling them and the student would pick up on that.

Then there is the problem that no one wants to talk about which is the School to Prison Pipeline and that most schools have to deal with insufficient resources and overcrowded classrooms. I bring this up because according to the ACLU “For most students, the pipeline begins with inadequate resources in public schools. Overcrowded classrooms, a lack of quali­fied teachers, and insufficient funding for “extras” such as counselors, special edu­cation services, and even textbooks, lock students into second-rate educational envi­ronments. This failure to meet educational needs increases disengagement and dropouts, increasing the risk of later court involvement.” I agree with this because many schools if they don’t have the funds to provide the help a student needs it’s easier for them to just kick the student out of school and pass the problem onto to the criminal justice system.

In conclusion while many people think school discipline is racist they forget that there are other factors that go into researching the claim about school discipline policies and their effects on minorities. If we want to make school discipline policies that are enforced fairly among all racial, ethnic, and gender lines then we need to start by trusting students to follow the rules set by the school with fearing what kind of punishment they’ll get if they break the rules. Because trusting students to “police themselves” is the first step in teaching them independence and responsibility.   

Works Cited

 

Klein, Rebecca. “Teachers Expect Less From Black And Latino Students.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 07 Oct. 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/07/pygmalion-effect-study_n_5942666.html>.

“School-to-Prison Pipeline.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017. <https://www.aclu.org/issues/juvenile-justice/school-prison-pipeline&gt;

Wallace, John M. et al. “Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in School Discipline among U.S. High School Students: 1991-2005.” The Negro educational review 59.1-2 (2008): 47–62. Print.

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