Dignity in Schools

Today, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights released long-awaited data that unequivocally demonstrate disparities in school resources and disciplinary practices along racial lines.

Students of color are more likely than white students to be suspended from school; to be taught by less qualified teachers; and to have less access to challenging STEM classes.

Leticia Smith-Evans, Interim Director of the Education Practice Group discusses these appalling disparities in The New York Times:

“To see that young African-American students — or babies, as I call them — are being suspended from pre-K programs at such horrendous rates is deeply troubling,” said Leticia Smith-Evans, interim director of education practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“It’s incredible to think about or fathom what pre-K students could be doing to get suspended from schools,” she added.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Education Practice Group also attended the ED’s release of the data today, in which Secretary Arne Duncan emphasized his concern that 4-year-old African American students in pre-K are being suspended at disproportionate rates.

Earlier this week, Leticia Smith-Evans participated in a radio interview with Amos Brown and Karega Rausch. The interview took place shortly after the research-to-practice collaborative — a group of 26 nationally recognized experts from the social science, education and legal fields first assembled three years ago – released their own data on exclusionary and discriminatory school discipline practices that have a disparate impact on students of color.

During the 2009-10 academic year, more than 3 million students in grades K-12 were suspended. This reflects a constant rise in suspensions since 1970 when approximately half that number of students were suspended.

Amid the release of the data, LDF attorneys have been participating in myriad events related to ending the school-to-prison pipeline.

On Friday, Leticia Smith-Evans moderated a panel hosted by the American Federation of Teachers on school discipline.

On Wednesday, Monique Lin-Luse spoke on a panel that was hosted by Congressman Bennie Thompson.

This weekend, LDF will participate in the Dignity in Schools campaign Days at the Capitol which brings together parents, students, educators and education advocates who seek to raise awareness and build support for urgently needed school discipline reform. For the Days at the Capitol, members of the DSC travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with staff at the White House and US Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and members of the US Senate and House of Representatives to advocate for positive improvements in school discipline policy and to end school pushout.

Check out our Twitter feed and Facebook page for live updates.