Over the last three decades, our nation has witnessed a dramatic change regarding how schools discipline children. Empirical evidence during this time period demonstrates that schools increasingly have relied on extreme forms of punishment such as suspensions, expulsions, referrals to law enforcement, and school-based arrests to discipline students for violations of school rules, including for low-level offenses. Many have referred to this disturbing trend of schools directly referring students to law enforcement or creating conditions under which students are more likely to become involved in the justice system—such as suspending or expelling them—as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Perhaps the most alarming aspect of over-disciplining students and of the school-to-prison pipeline generally is that not all racial groups are affected equally by these negative trends. This short symposium essay describes the observed racial disparities associated with disciplining students. It then discusses the concept of implicit racial bias, which appears to be one of the causes of those racial disparities. Finally, it describes the role that national and state government entities, including the U.S. Department of Education and state departments of education, can play in forming a comprehensive strategy to address the implicit racial biases of educators.
Jason P. Nance, Over-Disciplining Students, Racial Bias, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline, 50 U. Rich. L. Rev. 1063 (2016), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/749