Study: Arkansas Follows Regional Trend Of Racially-Linked School Discipline Practices

Aug 26, 2015

A new analysis of federal data shows Arkansas following a trend with 12 other southern states of disproportionally expelling and suspending African-American kids from public schools.

The University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education released the study Tuesday. It shows that in the 2011-2012 school year, 50 percent of children suspended and 33 percent of kids expelled were African-American, that despite Blacks making up only 21 percent of of the K-12 population in Arkansas public schools.


Shaun Harper, executive director of the Center, is one of the study's authors. He says he hopes it can serve people by "teaching about the school to prison pipeline, teaching about racial disproportionality in school discipline and helping aspiring educators to confront their own deeply-seated implicit biases about black children."


From the study:


18,185 Black students were suspended from Arkansas K-12 public schools in a single academic year. Blacks were 21% of students in school districts across the state, but comprised 50% of suspensions and 33% of expulsions. Bauxite School District, Cutter-Morning Star School District, Greene County Tech School District, and Valley View School District are among districts in which suspensions most disproportionately affected Black students. 


Harper says while Arkansas may do a better job than the neighboring states of Mississippi and Louisiana, the findings are still troubling.


"I would caution readers against sort of comparing Arkansas to some of the other states...because...any degree of disproportionality is bad," he says.


The study's data are available for every school district in Arkansas and represent a compilation of U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights information. Harper says the analysis can hopefully go toward school districts eliminating or reconsidering so-called “zero-tolerance” discipline policies.


You can read the study here.