“Racial disparities in school suspension rates are almost entirely the result of differing rates of misbehavior within different demographics, not school officials’ racism,” Hans Bader, senior attorney at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, wrote in a May 20 post on the blog of the libertarian think tank.
He cited a new study in the Journal of Criminal Justice in which a team of criminologists and academics concluded that differences in rates of suspension between racial groups “appear to be a function of differences in problem behaviors that emerge early in life, that remain relatively stable over time, and that materialize in the classroom.”
“[S]chool disciplinary rates may also reflect the problematic behaviors of black youth,” the study said.
Bader also argues that the belief that stringent school discipline policies result in large relative racial differences in suspensions “is exactly the opposite of reality. Relaxing discipline standards and otherwise reducing discipline rates leads to larger, not smaller, relative differences in discipline rates.”
In the long run, he warned, threatening school districts with civil rights investigations for “racially disparate impact” in discipline will not eliminate harsh zero-tolerance policies but “reinforce them, since for all their warts, they have less ‘disparate impact’ than alternative, less rigid disciplinary rules.”