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Educators Struggle to Find Answers to the Discipline Gap Problem

The discrepancies are particularly egregious in certain parts of the country. As The New York Times reported on Tuesday, a new analysis of the federal data finds that Black students in 13 Southern states are suspended or expelled “at rates overwhelmingly higher than White children.” In 132 of the districts analyzed, for example, Black students were suspended at rates at least five times greater than their representation in the student population. In an effort to combat disciplinary bias, the federal government has warned every school district in the country that they face legal action if their discipline policies have a “disparate impact”—“a disproportionate and unjustified effect”—on students of a particular race.

Still, despite widespread concern about the “discipline gap,” the recommendation has sparked a good deal of backlash, including from pundits who’ve speculated that children of color will actually be the ones most harmed. The administration’s guidelines “will encourage schools to tolerate disruptive and dangerous behavior lest they have too many students of one race being punished,” wrote the education-law expert Joshua Dunn in a Fordham Institute blog post last year. “The effect will be to punish students who behave and want to learn since their education will be sabotaged by troublemakers. And the disruptive will certainly learn, and learn quickly, that their schools are now tolerating even more disruptive behavior.”

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