“Students of color, students with disabilities and male students” are suspended at a disproportionate rate than their peers, in “potential violation of civil rights laws,” an Education Department official said Wednesday at the first ever congressional hearing on the so-called school-to-prison pipeline.
“We are alarmed by the disparities in disciplinary sanctions, particularly for students of color, students with disabilities, and male students,” said Deborah Delisle, assistant secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the Education Department. In written testimony, she said such disparities are a “potential violation of civil rights laws.”
“When African-American students are more than 3 ½ times as likely to be suspended or expelled as their White peers, or students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive out-of-school suspensions as their non-disabled peers, as they are today – it raises substantial concerns,”Delisle told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“These concerns are reflected in our department’s enforcement efforts and in the stories we’ve heard from the field, which demonstrate too often that students face disciplinary actions on the basis of their race,” she said.
For example, Delisle noted that an African-American student in kindergarten was suspended for five days for setting off a fire alarm while a white studentin 9th grade in the same district was suspended for one day for doing the same thing.
Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus,testified at the hearing, that he and the CBC have “advocated vigorously forover a decade that the federal government should lead the effort to address the over-disciplining of youth – a key factor involved in the educational crisis of African-Americans and especially African-American men.”
Obama said he was going to impose more rules to help blacks, the rest is window dressing