School Discipline Reform School to Prison Pipeline Zero Tolerance and School Discipline

“Disgraceful” Disparities in School Discipline Funnel Kids into Justice System

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

Research and the national conversation around racial disparities in school discipline have largely remained focused on the outsized disparate treatment that black students receive when compared with their white peers.

Yet Native American youth face much the same disciplinary treatment in schools that black students do, according to a report from San Diego State University and Sacramento Native American Higher Education Collaborative (SNAHEC) examining California school discipline data between 2013 and 2018.

In California, Native boys are expelled at the highest rate of any racial or gender group: a rate 4.2 times higher than the state average for all boys, according to the report. And the expulsion numbers for Native boys in K-12 have been ticking upward since the 2014-2015 school year.

While suspensions have generally followed a downward trend in recent years, racial disparities have persisted. Approximately 3.5 percent of all CA students were suspended during the 2017-2018 school year. That number more than doubled for Native kids, of whom 7.2 percent were suspended. And 36.7 percent of suspended Native students were suspended multiple times during the school year.

Native American kids fared the worst with regard to school discipline in a handful of rural counties, the research showed. In Kings County, for example, NA boys were more than 40 times more likely to be expelled than the state average, while girls were 20 times more likely.

In Humboldt County’s Fortuna Union High school district, 71 percent of NA boys were suspended during the 2017-2018 year. And in the same county’s troubled Loleta Union Elementary, one out of every three Native girls received suspensions. (In fact, in 2013, the feds launched a civil rights investigation into Loleta’s alarming treatment of Native students.)

These two districts had just over 80 self-identified Native American students combined. That may not seem like a large enough population from which to draw conclusions, but the data paints a dire picture in other rural counties, too. Nine rural counties with a cumulative population of 2010 Native male students suspended over 15 percent of the group. The data shows that in rural schools “where these students may already feel isolated in terms of those who emanate from the same community, they are also targeted by educators,“ the report stated.

Los Angeles Unified, where more than 1,000 NA kids were enrolled in 2017-2018, 3.42 percent of NA boys and 1.75 percent of NA girls were suspended. By contrast, in Sacramento’s San Juan Unified, where 500 Native kids were students at the time, 10.85 percent of the boys and 3.98 percent of the girls received suspensions.

This latest SDSU report is part of a series that includes “Get Out! Black Male Suspensions in California Public Schools,” a report released in February 2018, which, similarly shows that despite reductions in suspension rates among black students, racial disparities remain embedded in the school discipline system.

A separate Harvard study published this past September found that students who attended “high-suspension” schools in Charlotte, North Carolina were more likely to be arrested and incarcerated later in life and less likely to enroll in and attend a four-year college, than their peers in other schools. Kids of color experienced the most pronounced negative consequences of prior suspensions.

All students who attended a high suspension-rate school were subject to negative impacts of harsh school discipline policies and practices, according to the report. “That suggests there are not overwhelmingly positive benefits of removing disruptive peers from the classroom,” said Andrew Bacher-Hicks, who co-authored the report with his Harvard colleague David Deming and the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Stephen Billings. Additionally, despite a redistricting in 2002 that moved 50 percent of kids to new schools, suspension rates remained relatively steady at individual schools. Thus, the researchers were able to determine that the suspensions were tied to school leadership and policy, rather than the student population.

The Harvard/UC-Boulder report called on schools to further reduce their reliance on exclusionary school discipline practices, and urged community groups and organizations seeking to address criminal justice system involvement and educational achievement gaps to focus their attention upstream — to the schools pulling kids out of classrooms as punishment.

And the SDSU report authors recommended school districts partner with local tribes to implement cultural training to help school administrators and teachers to understand the needs of Native students. Additionally, the report calls on schools to include Native students, themselves, in the conversation about how to reduce disparities school policies so that more kids of color remain in classrooms whenever possible.


  • The disgrace is with with blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans AND whites who bring children into the world when they can’t even take care of themselves.

    PARENTS are the real problem here, NOT teachers, cops, judges, attorneys and whoever else you want to say are racist. There’s also a culture of disrespect for authority that’s worse now than ever, particularly among people of color.

    If you wanna see the latest example (among THOUSANDS), look up “chicken sandwich metro station.” You’ll see a white cop who’s detaining a black guy NOT because he’s violating the law and not cooperating, but obviously ONLY because he’s a black guy. I don’t know WHAT the poor guy (and his chicken sandwich) could have done to avoid this HORRIBLE racism….

    Don’t you see Taylor, that Native American, black and Hispanic kids MIGHT be expelled more because they MISBEHAVE more? Isn’t it POSSIBLE there are more blacks and Hispanics in prison because they commit crime more? Isn’t it POSSIBLE that the “system” isn’t as racist as the left believes it is?

  • progressives seem bent on turning what’s left of public schools into an “escape from New York” dystopia. Since they’re making it impossible to remove the worst, the game is going to be where do the good kids go to escape? The rich can always send their kids to private schools or move to better school districts. Good kids who’s parents don’t have the money to exercise these options are going to get the shaft, with the full throated approval of Witness la. All so progressives can boast about what good people they are at the next cocktail party, kind of decadent really.

  • LASD Apsotle, as Jack said, “you can’t handle the truth.” All things equal, listen, all things equal, you pick on the colored folks over white folks. You do this on the metro, in school, drug arrests, on the I-5. The literature is clear, clear as it is with anything else in the social sciences, clear. For example, Blacks and whites do drugs at about the same rates, yet blacks are disproportionately arrested, overcharged and get worse plea deals, ALL THINGS EQUAL. Same in school – a Leroy or Pedro will get harsher discipline than little Liam or Peyton, ALL THINGS EQUAL. Same for traffic citations. Take look at the Sheriffs on the I-5 – ALL THINGS EQUAL you go after the colored folks more than white folks. So, no, I do not just see a white cop stopping someone for just violating the law.

    So that I can try to understand your point, I saw the video. I am assuming its the one in the bay area. There was a telling comment when the person who appears to be the person filming asks the officer why he did not arrest a woman who may have been under the influence and also on the train. I do not doubt the guy was eating on the train, its right there on video. What we do not know is who else was violating the law and was passed over by the white cop. That is the beef people have, your selective enforcement. Any two-bit cop can tell you that if you follow a car for a few blocks you can find some violation, maybe a light, failure to signal, driving too fast or too slow, or my favorite, “erratic” driving. Somehow, you seem to find them on the brown or black folks more often – listen, all things equal.

    And, the real crime there are the two obese officers, the first one that makes the arrest and the one that walks away last after the arrest. Why are my tax dollars going to pay for obese officers. One would assume that a police officer would have to meet minimum physical condition standards to stay on the force. That is the crime. They were probably upset the young man did not share the chicken sandwich.

    And, there is no cultural disrespect for authority. People are just not taking your shit anymore. They will get in your face and tell you what they think about you and what you are doing. You are a public servant on the tax payer dime. The shine is off and fear is gone. The days when you could smack a brother upside the head and laugh are over.

  • Cf’s “truth” is a matter of her neo-progressive religious conviction and she is very disappointed in the rest of us. Believing that there some neighborhoods and schools have more crime and violence than others is racist and cf is holding us to account for the sin of noticing. What Cf wants you to know, is that if you prefer to send your kid to Beverly Hills high rather than to Jordan (downs) high, that you are a racist. All thing (being) equal.

  • It can be simultaneously true that blacks and native americans receive slighlty unequal treatment AND they commit actions which require discipline at a higher rate. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  • This is just not true:
    “Blacks and whites do drugs at about the same rates, yet blacks are disproportionately arrested, overcharged and get worse plea deals, ALL THINGS EQUAL. Same in school – a Leroy or Pedro will get harsher discipline than little Liam or Peyton, ALL THINGS EQUAL”
    Nope – blacks are arrested and charged with more weapons and resisting offenses because they have weapons and resist arrest. Leroy and Pedro get harsher discipline because they’re on their 4th or 10th warning whereas Liam or Peyton are on their 2nd or so. Teachers and cops are desperate to discipline/arrest white people to try to ‘even the statistics’ and not get blamed for terrible parenting / cultures of unlawfulness.

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