- The racial discipline gap is growing in South Bend, Indiana, despite South Bend Community School Corp.'s efforts to tackle the problem of black students being disciplined at significantly higher rates than their white peers, the South Bend Tribune reports.
- Despite creating an African American Student and Parent Services department in 2013 and investing more than $1 million in the effort, out-of-school suspensions for black students still grew from 39% in 2013 to 61% in 2018, while the rate of black students being expelled grew from 0.68% in 2013 to 1.69% in 2018.
- District officials including Superintendent Todd Cummings cite a lack of funding and other resources for the department as reasons for its ineffectiveness. Others say the department was given no clear direction and was only created to appease those demanding the district address its racial discipline disparity.
While South Bend Community School Corp.'s gap is widening, nearby districts have had success in closing the gap through methods including teacher training, early identification and intervention practices, and updating the code of conduct so teachers have detailed and standard responses for inappropriate behavior.
In New York City, community schools have had success in reducing the number of school-based incidents in elementary and middle schools. Research by the RAND Corp. recently found disciplinary incidents for black students were lower in those schools, suggesting partnerships between the district and local organizations to support a whole-child education by providing wraparound services could benefit racial disparities in school discipline.
"This means not only challenging our students academically, but also providing them eye glasses, mental health support, coats and shoes,” said NYC Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza in a press release on the success of the city's community schools.
Coaching teachers on classroom management and professional development on culturally responsive curriculum could also nudge the gap, according to a 2018 study by the School Psychology Review.
Schools have also seen success with restorative justice practices instead of zero-tolerance policies. One such program implemented in Pittsburgh Public Schools between the 2015 and 2017 school years significantly reduced the number of days elementary and black students were suspended.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District, a decision to ban suspensions for "willful defiance" even led to a 75% decrease in suspensions overall and less racial disparity between the suspensions.
It is important to note, however, programs to reshape suspension practices take robust planning and training and can be difficult on tight budgets.