Educators are doing something right inside our public school buildings. While it’s not often reported, indicators of disciplinary problems have been showing steady declines in recent decades, including for such serious infractions as gang activity, physical threats of violence, and weapons carried on school property. But it’s too early to start high-fiving. A new study further reveals that the overall picture is hiding disturbing and persistent inequities in how discipline is administered.
First, let’s look at what’s moving in the right direction:
- Between 2000 and 2016, the percentage of public schools reporting at least weekly incidents of bullying fell from 29.3 to 11.9%. Over the same time period, schools also saw declines in student verbal abuse of teachers (12.5 to 4.8%); student to student sexual harassment (4.0 to 1.0%); and gang activity (18.7 to 10.4%).
- Since 1993, the percentage of high school students who reported being in a physical fight at school decreased by half (16 to 8%); students who said they had carried a weapon (defined as a gun, knife or club) in school fell from 12 to 4%.
- Schools are reporting fewer “serious disciplinary actions“ against students for fighting, insubordination, and possession or distribution of illegal drugs or weapons. In 2005-06, nearly half — 48.1% — of public schools had on at least one occasion removed a student for five days or more. That percentage dropped to 37.2% in 2015-16.
- The number of students who have been subject to such disciplinary actions has fallen even more dramatically, from 3.9 million in 2005-06 to about 600,000 in 2015-16.
Unfortunately, not all students were equal beneficiaries of these improvements. The non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office examined how school discipline practices affect black students, boys, and students with disabilities compared to their classmates. Its report was developed at the request of Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and was released in March of this year.
The authors analyzed the most recent data (2013-14) from the Office of Civil Rights in order to compare the proportion of disciplinary actions received by different student groups compared to their representation in the overall student population. Here’s what they found:
Read the full article here: