Black students face harsher punishments than their peers and are less likely to receive mental health attention for their problems, according to new research.
According to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, Black students are expelled and suspended three times more often than White students. And a new study published in the journal Sociology of Education found that school districts with large Black populations were less likely to consider offering counseling services compared to predominantly White school districts.
School districts in which a large portion of the students were Black would usually report incidents to law enforcement officers—not the case in majority White school districts. The study, entitled “The Social Structure of Criminalized and Medicalized School Data” examined how “district level racial/ethnic and socioeconomic compositions” affect the method of discipline implemented on students. The study was conducted by David Ramey, an assistant professor of sociology and justice at Penn State University. Ramey examined data from 60,000 schools in more than 6,000 school districts, and concluded that that the increased incarceration rates in minority communities results in a criminalized view of students when they misbehave.
According to the study, unlike White parents, the families of Black children are less likely to blame their behavior on medical or psychological causes.
“The legacy of the Tuskegee experiments has left many Black families skeptical of medical and mental research, particularly contested and controversial issues like ADHD,” Ramey wrote in his report.
Ramey also noted that research suggests that teachers view Black boys’ misbehavior as the result of bad parenting and cultural deficiencies, and are less likely to attribute minority students’ acting up to a behavior disorder.
“White kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem, while Black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn,” said Ramey.
According to The Daily Beast, Black students with learning disabilities are three times more likely to be suspended than White students with learning disabilities. Ramey suggests that the current discipline structure of American schools is flawed.
“There’s been a real push toward school safety and there’s been a real push for schools to show they are being accountable,” he wrote. “But, any zero-tolerance policy or mandatory top-down solutions might be undermining what would be otherwise good efforts at discipline, and not establishing an environment based around all the options available.”