In a recent article, several strategies were provide for parents who have children who are potential victims of racial bias that results in discipline. The article is a result of the ongoing school discipline disparities between Black and White students. While offering several plausible solutions, the reality is that the author has not properly evaluated the cause for disciplinary racial disparities between Black and White children.

There are remarkable differences in the disciplinary outcomes for Black and White children. The United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights reports that disciplinary disparities between Blacks and Whites begin in preschool. Even though Black children represent 18% of the preschool population, they represent 48% of the out of school suspensions. Comparatively, White students represent 43% of the preschool population, while only representing 26% of the out of school suspensions.

This imbalance of discipline continues through high school. Black students are three times more likely to be suspended from school when compared to White students. The average suspension rate for White students is 5%, while the average suspension rate for Black students is 16%. Additionally, Black girls are suspended at a rate 12% higher when compare to other girls of different ethnicities.

The racial bias has an impact on what students are referred to law enforcement. Black students represent 16% of the student population while representing 27% of the students referred to law enforcement and 31% are arrested. Comparatively, White student represent 51% of the student population while representing 54% of the students referred to law enforcement and 39% are arrested.

In order to determine the real factors that contribute to racial bias in discipline we must take a systemic perspective. The first fact is that 75% or more school discipline referrals are recommended by teachers. The other 25% or less are submitted by other staff members including administrators. Once a teacher submits a discipline referral, the administrator will investigate the teachers complaint and render a judgment. Once a judgment is made, the consequence is delved out. In most schools, once the consequence is delved out the parent should be contacted. Once a consequence is allocated, students normally choose one of three of the following options:

  1. Be late for school
  2. Be absent from school
  3. Decrease participation in that teachers class

All three options have an impact of student achievement. Even though the central theme of No Child Left Behind was to decrease the achievement gap between Black and White students the gap persists. Since the inception of NCLB, the achievement gap between Black and White students has decreased by 2 percentage points. The achievement levels for Blacks students is so detrimental that it has been found that only about half of Black fourth graders perform at the above basic level in reading according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

There is a negative correlation between student discipline and student achievement. When students are disciplined, they are more likely to underachieve. The only way to reverse this trend is to reduce the number of discipline referrals submitted by White teachers.

Several schools have mandated the decreases of discipline referrals which could prove detrimental to the school district due to the process that they have implemented. For example,  D.C. school superintendent, Chancellor Kaya Henderson, has opted stop suspending Black kids due to a new report that revealed African-American students are almost six times more likely to be suspended from school when compared to White students. The Minneapolis Public School District has announced a new initiative to reduce the number of non-White students suspended from school which requires that any non-White student that is recommended for out of school suspension with the exception of violent infractions must be approved by the superintendent’s office. The challenge with both initiatives is that they do not focus on the discipline referrals which is the beginning process that normally results in the over discipline of Black students.

The real solution to reducing the over discipline of Blacks is to reduce the number of discipline referrals submitted by White teachers. Discipline referrals are submitted due to the racial differences between Black students and Whites teachers. Under the surface of it all is the development of trust between Black students and White teachers which is the result of which non verbal and verbal behavior will dominate in the classroom. Off setting the racial bias in discipline will require that schools eliminate classroom racism (Elcloomism) by promoting positive racial teacher student classroom relationships (Properateasclaships).

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It’s Not Just a Boy Problem: Black Girls Are Suspended at Higher Rates Than White Girls

Racism in East Ramapo, New York: It’s Time to March

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 1668 Blackwood, NJ 08012

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Author of Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships


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