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Factors Involved in Black-School Suspensions


Jay Thomas Willis, Correspondent

The Mid-South Tribune and the Black Information Highway

Black students are far more likely than their White, Latino, Asian, or Native American peers to be suspended from school. A number of reports indicate this fact. This is fact also according to a U.S. Department of Education report. In addition, according to an article in the Journal of Negro Education entitled, “Variability in Schools’ Suspension Rates of Black Students,” Black students had a higher suspension rate than other groups. Black students across the nation had a 37 percent suspension rate. All other groups had significantly lower rates.

            Some of the actual behavioral problems for Black suspensions include: acting out, willful defiance, fighting, bringing weapons or drugs on campus, talking back to teachers, cursing, walking into class late, harassment, student eye rolling, threats, intimidation, and creating disorder. These were just some of the actual behaviors involved.

            Most of these reports gave little or no sociological, psychological, or economic reasons for the higher rate of suspension. They did give such reasons as having to exist in a dysfunctional learning environment, having to use defective material, lack of role models, and a hostile environment. Mostly it was simply stated that there was a higher rate among Blacks, without further clarifications. Some will say Blacks don’t defy rules any more frequently than other groups, but are simply targeted for their transgressions more often.

            There are sociological, economic, and psychological factors supporting the idea that Blacks may indeed have higher suspension rates than other groups. Having a dysfunctional family and community environment can cause one to be more likely to commit behavioral problems in school. Blacks are experiencing in the classroom, and in the family and community, an exponential explosion of dysfunctional problems. These problems are reaching their pressure point. When social problems exist in a society for an extensive period of time, without the problems being addressed, the problems only get more intense. These problems don’t grow at regular rates but expand exponentially. This means they multiply at phenomenal rates, and never disappear without strategic intervention.

            Under these conditions many individuals aren’t being prepared to function in the educational system, and in addition, because of their behavior receive much rejection from teachers. In this way the educational system does not ready them for employment situations. There’s nothing left for many to do except to become dysfunctional, and pass such dysfunction along to their children. Too many of these children are reacting to what they perceive as a lack of potential for a decent future. You can observe such attitudes in their behavior.

            Children are also reacting to a lack of leadership and discipline in the home, combined with exponential growth of dysfunction within the general community. Parents are too busy working two and three jobs just to survive—those that are lucky enough to find employment. Parents don’t spend enough quality time with their children. In too many cases there’s only one parent. Most children need a firm hand, and those who exist in a dysfunctional situation especially need firm discipline and control, as well as unconditional love. Without such conditions some children will run wild in the streets.

            Jewell T. Gibbs in her 1988 book, Young Black and Male in America: An Endangered Species, wrote that the Black male was becoming extinct, and would soon be if current trends were not reversed. It’s contended here that the same conditions that apply to Black males apply to Black females. What affects the Black male eventually affects the Black female.

            Since Jewell T. Gibbs comments, many have addressed these issues, but few have established programs to address the problems. It seems that the media tends to mention the problems every so often, only to further describe and document the carnage, but it seems they are only interested in documenting the problem, and not demanding or emphasizing that strategic interventions need to be made. They seem to say, “This is the way it is, and stay tuned for what happens next.” Politicians seem to ignore the issues completely. In the meantime, Black males are left to either go to prison, mental institutions, destroy themselves with drugs, or do something to achieve their ultimate demise; their women tagging right behind them.

                        Sixty percent of U.S. prison populations are Black males, and 60 percent of Black families are headed by single females. Many of those Black males on the street are on parole. More and more Black women are ending up in prison as well. When we consider the high rate of unemployment, the educational, and the economic situation that Blacks find themselves, it stands to reason that some of these problems would transfer to the schools from the general society.

We know a large percentage of these school-suspension problems leading to disciplinary action are caused by Black males, but are increasingly caused by Black females. There have been few attempts to categorize these suspension problems into male and female, but it’s believed that Black females have fewer suspensions than Black males. These school-discipline problems are like having a rotten apple in a barrel of apples; soon the whole barrel will be affected.

Problems in the Black community have grown disproportionately because of historical conditions, which could be contributing to suspension problems in the schools. In this case, it’s past time to develop strategic interventions to begin to deal with the problems of the Black community—especially the Black male. At that point we should see a decrease in the number of school suspensions.



*The above is on the Black Paper lane and can also be downloaded in PDF format on the Black Information Highway and The Mid-South Tribune ONLINE. Mr. Willis is the author of twenty-three books, fifteen professional journal articles, a number of magazine articles, and over 300 newspaper articles. His books can be reviewed at www.jaythomaswillis.com .  Email him at jaytwillis@gmail.com  or MSTnews@prodigy.net or BlackInfoHwy@prodigy.net .  Welcome, Travelers!




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