A new study of large school systems shows that the racial gap in the punishment of students is similar to the disparities found in the criminal justice system for adults.
Data from the Department of Education show that African-American students are suspended or “referred” to law enforcement by school officials far more often that white students, even within the same school.
The data showed that African American students represented 24 percent of enrollment but 35 percent of arrests. White students accounted for 31 percent of enrollment and 21 percent of arrests. For Hispanic students, there was less of a disparity in arrests. They accounted for 34 percent of enrollment and 37 percent of arrests.
Officials caution that there are many possible explanations for the disparity, such as poverty and access to the best classes and teachers. But one implication of the study is the pattern of racial difference in the courts and in prison begins at the school level.
According to the NAACP, a student who is arrested is twice as likely to drop out, which can lead to more legal troubles and more arrests later in life.