Tuesday, June 14, 2016

African American Suspensions: Cause for Sorrow

| By Susan Perkins Weston | 

Both suspensions and in-school removals take students out of their regular classes as a consequence for behavior. The chart above does not mean that every African American student was suspended last year. It does come close to meaning that for every African American student who was not suspended, another African American student was suspended more than once.

So far, what I’ve got on this is sorrow.

Sorrow for the students who separated from their classmates, removed from their school’s broad welcome in the simplest and most visible way imaginable.

Sorrow for the students who watch those separations, puzzling over what it means, puzzling over whether they should learn something general about an “us” or about a “them” from the pattern of who gets sent away.

Sorrow for the educators who decide on the separations, whether they had better options or not, whether they are still searching for other ways to work with the students or settled into despair.

Sorrow for the families, whether they think a particular exclusion just or unjust, whether they are giving the children the best preparation to avoid this kind of consequence or not.

Sorrow for connections not made, relationships not flourishing, potential not growing at its fullest possible speed.

Sorrow for all of us, because these students should be strong, secure, and settling into confident membership in our communities, and we somehow have not come close to making what should be into what happens here now.

I wish I had deep insight into how this happens in schools and classrooms.  I wish I had bold ideas for how to make it different.  I've been looking at these numbers since last October, without finding that kind of clarity.  Sorrow is what I've got, so I'll speak that, and welcome all thoughts on how we can do better.

Below: sharply contrasting data for three other groups of students:

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