Our schools treat certain children differently from their peers. Children, as young as preschoolers, are subject to discrimination and bias, which can alter their future in sinister ways. School disciplinary practices disproportionately affect children of color, and it is a national crisis. A recent New York Time article, When Black Children Are Targeted for Punishment, illuminates that the racial discipline gap exists in school districts all over the U.S.
Overall, in Westchester County, Black children represent only 14% of the total student population but make up 42% of the suspended* students. Compare that to White students who represent almost half of the total student population (48%) but only make up 20% of the suspended students. There are people out there that believe Black children are suspended at a higher rate because they behave and “act out” more than other children do; however, research has shown that Black kids do not “act out” any more than their White peers do and, more often, are referred to administration for much less serious infractions.
This is not the first time we have brought this issue to the forefront of our work. If you attended our Advocacy Breakfast this past spring, you will remember a compelling presentation from Dr. Walter Gilliam. His 2016 research showed that preschool teachers harbor unconscious biases that target Black boys for bad behavior, even when the bad behavior does not exist, more than any other child in the classroom setting.
A giant step towards leveling the playing field
Fortunately, many great partners in Westchester are aware of this serious dilemma and committed to working on it. The GPS4Kids collective impact initiative has identified an overarching goal that all children in Westchester will thrive regardless of race or zip code. The first outcome category, keeping children in positive learning environments, will address school disciplinary practices, specifically suspensions. Looking for alternatives to suspensions, such as restorative justice approaches, and enticing school districts to adopt them, will be a giant step towards leveling the playing field for children of color in Westchester.
We have created an interactive dashboard that shows suspensions by district and school, broken down by both race and gender. To put it in perspective, the suspension rate is displayed against the total enrollment of students. We encourage you to search through the districts and schools, look at the numbers, and let us know what you think.
*For the purposes of the dashboard and this post, we are only looking at out-of-school suspensions.
 Losen, Daniel J.; & Skiba, Russell J.(2010). Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis . UCLA: The Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles. Retrieved from: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/8fh0s5dv