It is no secret that the educational system treats Black and white children differently. However, new research is furthering just how much we know regarding the details of in-school discipline. While a level of racism is often the main reason for racial disparities, money also plays a huge part.
The Sociology of Education journal released a study last week that shows Black students are more likely to be punished with expulsions, suspension and even referrals to law enforcement. Meanwhile white students are more likely to be offered medical and psychological treatment or placed in special education classes.
David Ramsey, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Pennsylvania State University, conducted the study by analyzing the rates of expulsions, police referrals and suspensions of 59,000 schools across the country. Ramsey also counted how many students in the same schools were enrolled in the Individuals with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The two programs are set up to help students that require special services.
It was found that schools with a large population of Black students had higher rates of suspensions, while schools catering to a large group of white students had more children in the government programs for special services.
But these findings are not all about racial attitudes. Unfortunately, most schools with a higher population of Black students cannot actually afford to put their students into the two programs.
In order for schools to receive special services under Section 504 students must show a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities” and schools are given no funding for the program; therefore having to dig into, often already tight, budgets.
“Where the population is more educated, parents make more money, housing values are greater, those districts tend to give a lot of autonomy to their schools,” said Ramsey to The Huffington Post.
The new study states that the lack of funding for such programs is one reason why schools with a large minority population often opt for suspensions over special education services. However, Ramsey has previously studied the effects of racial attitudes towards school discipline.
“The bulk of my earlier research looked at how, for the same minor levels of misbehaviors — for example, classroom disruptions, talking back — 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 Ramsey in a press release.
Should the government supply funding for special education programs to help level the playing field?