Stress, Bias Seen Affecting Suspension Rates

Evanston Now

By Jan Smith

Research studies suggest that challenges students face outside the classroom and unacknowledged biases among teachers both are factors in higher discipline rates for students who are black, male or have disabilities.

newly released report from the Government Accountability Office says research studies “suggest that implicit bias – stereotypes or unconscious associations about people – on the part of teachers and staff may cause them to judge students’ behaviors differently based on the students’ race and sex.”

The GAO report also notes that health and social challenges outside the classroom, including poverty and childhood trauma, can lead to educational challenges, such as lower grades and more suspensions and expulsions.

A GAO analysis also showed that increases in the percentage of low-income students in a school were generally associated with significantly higher rates of disciplinary action.

And it’s not a new problem. A 2002 analysis by researchers at Indiana University of studies conducted over the previous quarter century found that “black students are suspended disproportionately due primarily to a higher rate of office referral” and are more likely to be referred to the office for more subjective reasons.

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