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Feds Say Minority Students Face Higher Rates of Punishment


The federal government and the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released guidelines encouraging school to use fairness and equity in their discipline policies and warning of potential punishment, if they don't.

The U.S. Department of Education says African-American students make up 15 percent of the nation’s population but account for more than one-third of those who have been suspended from school at least once.

Education advocate Deborah Fowler, with Texas Appleseed, says minority students, especially African-American students, are more likely to experience discipline more frequently, both from administrators and from school resource officers.

"It's acute in Texas, but it's acute nationwide," Fowler says. "African-American students are grossly over-represented in suspension and expulsion and in referrals to school-based law enforcement." 

In addition, a 2011 study by the Council of State Governments found that African-American students in Texas were almost three times as likely as whites to receive an out-of-school suspension for similar violations. Hispanics were twice as likely as whites to be suspended out of school. 

But Fowler says Austin's school district has been relatively progressive by using "evidence-based" alternatives to suspensions, expulsion and alternative education programs. 

"They have been, for years, looking at ways they can try to keep kids in school, rather than using suspension and expulsion as the first response when a student misbehaves," Fowler says. 

The departments announced the new guidelines in a letter today, which you can read here.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.
Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
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