Missouri’s Black Students, Students with Disabilities, Disciplined Harsher, More Often

ACLU of Missouri Report on School Discipline Analyzes School-to-Prison Pipeline, Offers Solutions

Affiliate: ACLU of Missouri
October 12, 2017 11:45 am

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ST. LOUIS — Black students and students with disabilities are punished more severely and more frequently than their peers in schools across Missouri. Disproportionate school discipline in Missouri is costly, unconstitutional, and funnels children out of school and into the criminal justice system.

Today, the ACLU of Missouri released its report, “From School to Prison: Missouri’s Pipeline of Injustice,” which documents discipline disparities and includes recommendations for students, parents, teachers and policymakers on how to stop this crisis in our education system.

Among our findings:

  • Black students are 4.5 times more likely to be suspended than White students.
  • Black students with disabilities were more than three times more likely to be suspended than White students with disabilities.
  • Black boys are almost four times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than White boys. Black girls are six times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than White girls.
  • Missouri is one of 19 states in the nation that still allows corporal punishment. Black students are almost twice as likely to be hit in school as their White peers.
  • Between 2011 and 2014, the rate of students expelled from school in Missouri doubled.

The consequences of excessive discipline extend far beyond the classroom, perpetuating cycles of poverty, low-education attainment, and structural inequalities that span generations. The school-to-prison pipeline is costly for taxpayers, too. It costs $89,170 a year to pay for one child in a juvenile justice facility, compared to $10,802 per in-school student.

The ACLU will host “Know Your Rights” workshops for students across the state. The organization is also seeking to engage five school districts in decreasing suspension rates, while working community groups, educators, and partners already committed to improving the lives of children. The organization will also work with legislators on state laws designed to reduce the number of children entering the criminal justice system.

From Sharonica Hardin-Bartley, Superintendent, University City Schools:

“We must think differently about student discipline. As schools and learning organizations become more trauma informed, our practices should be more restorative in nature. Punitive measures simply don’t work. Schools, teachers, administrators, parents need the appropriate training, policies, and support to effectively create a learning environment that is safe, nurturing, and most importantly one that humanizes the educational process for adults and students. Schools can’t do this work alone.”

From Katheryne Staeger-Wilson, Program Coordinator, Grassroots Advocacy/Training and Outreach, Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council:

“The Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council is a 23-member council appointed by the Governor. Our mandate is to assure that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families participate in creating systems change and to make certain their voices are heard. The school to prison pipeline is an issue that significantly impacts those with disabilities. We look forward to collaborating with the ACLU and other stakeholders as we address this vitally important issue for Missourians.”

From Luz María Henríquez, Program Director of the Education Justice Program, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri:

“Access to education is critical to maintaining our country’s basic institutions. The racially disproportionate application of school discipline (nationwide and in Missouri) highlights the stark contrast in the opportunity for children of color to access that education, as compared to their white peers. Suspended students are less likely to graduate on time and more likely to be suspended again, repeat a grade, drop out of school, and become involved in the juvenile justice and criminal justice systems. The time is now to sever the school-to-prison pipeline, and this report from the ACLU gives us the data to do that work. The Education Justice Program at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri is committed to addressing the root causes of the school-to-prison pipeline using a racial justice lens. We pursue these goals by engaging in affirmative litigation and community empowerment, including hosting “Know Your Rights Workshops” on education issues. We provide free legal assistance to parents and students on education issues.”

From: Reverend Dietra Wise Baker, Organizer, Break the Pipeline Campaign, Metropolitan Congregations United:

“Although many youth-centered systems intend benevolence in the forms of academic excellence, protection, and treatment: the data reveals they are infected with racism. Our region must deal with the data for the sake of ‘all’ our children.”

From Katie Kaufmann, Director, Ready By 21 St. Louis and President, Maplewood Richmond Heights Board of Education:

“The long-term effects of out-of-school suspension on a child’s future can be devastating, including an increased likelihood of dropping out of school and fewer employment opportunities,” said Katie Kaufmann, director of Ready By 21 St. Louis. “It is important that the community as a whole – school districts, administrators, teachers, parents and advocates – work together to reform school discipline policies and implement supportive practices so all students can experience future success.”

From Sara Baker, ACLU of Missouri Legislative and Policy Director:

“We must take actions at every level to end Missouri’s school-to-prison pipeline,” said Sara Baker, ACLU of Missouri legislative and policy director. “This report is just the beginning of a long-term, focused effort to make sure our children have an equal education and brighter future.”

Read the full report and check out our recommendations and toolkit.

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