Sam Dillon's story entitled ?Racial Disparity in School Suspensions? in this morning's NY Times brings to mind the time that our elementary school went into lockdown when a rubber knife was discovered in a first-grader's lunch box.? Cop cars rushed to the scene and the six-year-old was hauled off in one of them ? then kicked out of school.

That's not a story about race (the kid was white), but it suggests the kind of discipline disarray our schools are in.? The bullying bandwagon (see here and here) is part of the same syndrome. ?But the report from the Southern Poverty Law Center that Dillon writes about, ?Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis,? is depressingly serious:

Since the early 1970s, out-of-school suspension rates have escalated dramatically. In part, the higher use of out-of-school suspension reflects the growth of policies such as ?zero tolerance,? an approach to school discipline that imposes removal from school for a broad array of school code violations ? from violent behavior to truancy and dress code violations?. Yet, despite nearly two decades of implementation of zero tolerance disciplinary policies and their application to mundane and non-violent misbehavior, there is no evidence that frequent reliance on removing misbehaving students improves school safety or student behavior (APA, 2008). Because suspended students miss instructional time, frequent use of out-of-school suspension also reduces students' opportunity to learn.

Not surprisingly, as Dillon reports, the crackdown has been harder on blacks than whites: ?black boys were nearly three times as likely to be suspended as white boys? and ?black girls were suspended at four times the rate of white girls.? ?More reasons to suggest that Martin Luther King, Jr. was right to be suspicious of school integration.

?Peter Meyer

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