Not Separate, Not Equal: Feds Look at Native Kids in Public Schools
The federal government recently took a look at how American Indian children are faring in public schools—and the results are disturbing.
Minority children in public schools are generally subjected to harsher, more frequent disciplinary measures than are white students, according to the report, “School Discipline, Restraint, & Seclusion,” released by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. The data collection that served as the basis of the report covered all 97,000 public schools in the U.S., which serve 49 million pre-K through grade 12 students. Between 90 percent and 95 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native children are educated in public schools.
“The issue of unlawful racial discrimination in school discipline is… a civil rights issue,” states a U.S. Department of Education spokesperson. “Title VI protects students from discrimination based on race in connection with all academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic, and other programs and activities of a school, including programs and activities a school administers to ensure and maintain school safety and student discipline.
A few examples of the government’s findings: AI/AN children, who represented 0.5 percent of enrollment of the schools included in this calculation, accounted for 2 percent of single and multiple out-of-school suspensions and 3 percent of expulsions. On the other hand, they accounted for only 0.2 percent of in-school suspensions. By contrast, white students, who accounted for 51 percent of enrollment, comprised 40 percent of in-school suspensions, 36 percent and 31 percent of single and multiple out-of-school suspensions respectively and 36 percent of expulsions. These numbers suggest that the harsher the punishment (with in-school suspension at one end of the scale and expulsion at the other), the less likely is it to be applied to white students and the more likely it is to be imposed on AI/AN children.
Thirteen percent of AI/AN boys received out-of-school suspension, compared with 6 percent of white boys. Seven percent of AI/AN girls received out-of-school suspension, compared with just 2 percent of white girls.
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