The Five Worst and Best States To School African American Children
Where your child is more likely to get suspended than educated
With a new school year soon upon us, many summer vacation weary parents are hoping that their child performs better than they did the year before--and manages to stay out of the principal's office in the process. For most parents those two simple wishes would not be too much to ask for, but the sad reality is that achieving those goals may be more of an uphill battle than you, or your child, would expect.
Among the more discouraging findings from studies on African American children and education is the widely reported conclusion that black children are punished more severely than any other racial group.
These kinds of severe punishments don't come as a result of major violations like bringing guns to school or hiding drugs in lockers. Often the infractions are a minor as being late or talking in class.
And this is about more than missed school days. Studies show that teachers and administrators are increasingly calling law enforcement on students. To add fuel to the proverbial fire, just this week the U.S. Department of Justice accused a Mississippi county of running a “school-to-prison” pipeline, where students are imprisoned for disciplinary infractions.
In January of this year it was revealed that the state of Illinois was also employing the same tactic of police arrest for minor infractions, holding 40 percent of its juveniles on parole violation for skipping school or violating curfew.
And how could we forget the case of 6-year-old Salecia Johnson of Milledgeville, Georgia who was handcuffed and taken to jail after throwing a reportedly massive tantrum in class.
Researchers at the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles have recently released their findings from a study looking at suspension records from nearly half of the country's school districts during the 2009-10 school year. The study revealed that 17 percent of African American students nationwide received an out-of-school suspension compared to about 5 percent of white students and 7 percent of Latinos.
With the odds of African American school children being punished to the fullest extent of the law increasing, parents should know where their children are more likely to get punished--and severely--than educated. Take a look at some of the states ranked highest for over-the-top punishment of black students and states where the focus is on learning, not incarceration.
Going outside to play and getting to and from school safely is already a task for most kids in Chicago. Now add not getting suspended to that list. African American school kids in the state of Illinois have the highest rate of suspension risk in the country. Twenty-five percent of black children are likely to be sent home from school more than once. And could there be a connection? Between 2000-2009, the state had the second highest increase in prison population, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Home to Kansas City and St. Louis, the two cities where African American school children suffer tremendously from failing education systems. It should come as no surprise that the "Show Me State" shows up on this list. Just under 23 percent of black school kids are likely to be suspended repeatedly between 7th and 12th grades. There is one bright light in this gloomy picture, however. Black students who attend magnet schools (and aren't targeted for suspension) tend to excel in the classroom.
A black student in Connecticut is 18 times more likely to get suspended than their white classmate, and about 30 percent do not obtain a standard diploma within a four year timeframe.
Twenty-one percent of African American school children in Tennessee are likely to be suspended. It should also be mentioned that the state's biggest city, Memphis, almost didn't have a school year in 2011 because of budget bickering between the city government and the school board. In the state's capital of Nashville, nine middle schools suspended over half of their black male middle school population.
It's not a shocker to see Michigan on this list. Statistics say that 22 percent of black school children in Michigan can expect to be suspended, almost 16 times more likely than their white counterparts. Michigan is also embroiled in a highly publicized cheating scandal. Things have gotten so bad in the state that teachers aren't coming to school and angry students are getting suspended for demanding better.
Startled? There is hope. Check out these states where the suspension rates aren't as high and African American children may fare better.
New Jersey's black-to-white suspension gap is in the single digits, coming in at just under 9 percent. Their class size falls under the national average, meaning that teachers are not outnumbered by students, thereby increasing the odds of your child getting the help and attention they need. If you're a student in Newark, it doesn't hurt that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to the public school system two years ago.
The state of Oregon's school system is far from perfect, but according to the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles study, it can boast a 7.6 percent black-to-white suspension gap. It is also home to Portland's De La Salle North Catholic High School, the home of a predominately black advanced placement calculus class.
The African American high school graduation rate in Arizona is higher than the national average for all African Americans, according to a State of Black Arizona study. The state's black-to-white suspension gap rests at 7.8 percent. This could very well mean that when kids aren't sent home from school, they're doing pretty well in the classroom.
With a black population of 1.2 percent, there are probably less opportunities to send black students home. This might explain why the state's black-to-white suspension ratio is only 2 percent. Of the black males who do live and attend school there, 89 percent of them graduated from high school, according to a Schott Foundation study.
Like North Dakota, there aren't many black people who make Vermont their home. While the black population is at a mere 1 percent, the state boasts an 88 percent graduation rate among blacks.