top of page

Bias And School Discipline

While the education landscape is complex and ever-changing, the idea that education is a pathway to opportunity in our society persists. One education topic that continues to gain attention is school discipline, both in terms of the various approaches and the implementation and ramifications thereof. Looking across the nation at students suspended at least once during the 2009–2010 school year, an uneven landscape emerges. The reports note that nearly 1 out of every 6 African American students enrolled was suspended. This high proportion is followed by Native American students (1 in 13) and Latino students (1 in 14). In contrast, among White students, only 1 in 20 was suspended, and a mere 1 in 50 Asian American students were suspended, though this varied by subgroup.

A recent study showed that black children make up only 18% of preschoolers but makeup 48% of children suspended more than once. The reasons for this disturbing disparity were explored by a recent study in which researchers read teachers vignettes about students of different genders and races with behavioral problems. The scholars discovered that teachers “increased the severity of suggested disciplinary actions when the race of the teachers didn’t match that of the child.” This insight is particularly valuable given that the National Center for Education Statistics found in 2010 that students of color make up over 45% of public school students whereas 83% of their teachers are white, and this gap is only projected to grow in coming years.

Many schools developed zero-tolerance policies after a spike in juvenile crime in the 1990s. These zero-tolerance policies began adding law enforcement in schools daily and ended up doubling suspensions and expulsions. Minority schoolchildren are disproportionately affected as they are more likely than their white counterparts to be suspended or expelled from school for the same infractions. Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights found that “African American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their White peers without disabilities to be expelled or suspended (Lhamon & Samuels, 2014).

The impact that school discipline has on schoolchildren is devastating. A single suspension in the first year of high school doubles the dropout chance for that child. Children who are expelled are three times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system. Once caught within the juvenile justice system, the psychological and economic consequences can have a lasting and burdensome impact on children while simultaneously decreasing their educational and financial opportunities, and increasing the chances of reincarceration. Incarcerated youth are nearly 70 percent more likely to be in jail again by age 25 than youth who were not referred to juvenile detention.

IINII uses a revolutionary Design Thinking process to help your school community gain an understanding of one’s sense of self, as well as developing an understanding of students’ values; having an understanding of one’s values matters because research has shown that it is linked to better well-being, less stress, and increased confidence in one’s ability to succeed.

Understanding students’ values can be developed with culturally responsive practices that reflect a student’s identity and experience. Particularly helpful is focusing efforts on cultural competence and relevance and providing opportunities for students to practice bridging differences between diverse identities in a safe environment. To learn how you can create a dynamic learning environment that honors your student community, visit our website at, or contact us at or 1800-507-2502.

26 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page