Discrimination remains within school disciplinary system


infographic by Yasmeen El-Jayyousi

Afsah Khan

infographic by Yasmeen El-Jayyousi
infographic by Yasmeen El-Jayyousi
In 2008, Barack Obama was elected as the first black president of the United States. A few years later, in 2013, Nina Davuluri became the first Indian American to be crowned Miss America.
The emerging success of many minority figures within the past few years demonstrates how the world is becoming a smaller and smaller place. However, 50 years ago, no one would have ever imagined the world like it is today.
In August 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. described a seemingly improbable scenario of equality in front of thousands gathered in Washington, D.C., he became an icon for a pivotal moment in United States history. In a time when black and white facilities were strictly divided in accordance with the “separate but equal” doctrine, King described a world where children of all races would stand equal to one another.
That one moment would change the next few decades and bring the issue of minority rights into the national spotlight. Since then, people of all ethnicities have represented the great strides made by minorities in the United States.
But despite these achievements and several others minorities have made in the past few decades, a recent report published by the U.S. Department of Education indicated that public school students are still discriminated against in terms of punishment and the availability of quality instruction.
According to the U.S. Education Department’s 2011-2012 Civil Rights Data Collection, which includes data from each of the nation’s 97,000 public schools and 16,500 school districts, students of color are far more likely to be suspended than their white classmates, and black and Latino students usually have teachers that are much less experienced than those that teach white students.
These alarming statistics also reflect the Columbia Public School district, as well. Over the last few years, the number of black students who receive suspensions is significantly higher than white students, and the divide between the two percentages is slowly increasing. In the 2009-10 school year, 54 percent of all suspensions in CPS were attributed to black students, and that number rose to 58.6 percent for the 2012-13 school year. According to this recent data, the disproportionate distribution of suspensions is creating a widening gap between racial groups.
This means that students are not getting a universally equal education, setting them up to achieve less than their peers. The study said students that are suspended even once are less likely to graduate with their class, more likely to be suspended again, and “more likely to repeat a grade, drop out, and become involved in the juvenile justice system.”
The notion that some groups of students are still being denied the same quality education than their counterparts in other areas is appalling. Education should be the top priority for any country, and to see these shockingly different percentages separating students by race is upsetting, to say the least.
Receiving a quality education is the greatest gift one can achieve, and it usually is a good indicator of how well of a future an individual will have. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, several countries have low literacy rates. For example, Afghanistan and Ethiopia have literacy rates of 39 and 28.1 percent, respectively.
Based on these statistics, low literacy rates are usually characteristic of countries that struggle to provide a peaceful and prosperous environment for their citizens, and are relatively poor compared to others. According to The World Bank, Afghanistan and Ethiopia had a GDP per capita of $687.2 and $453.6, respectively, in 2012; those are significantly low numbers compared to a GDP per capita of $51,748.6 for the U.S. Worldwide, varying qualities of education will only lead to a much deeper segregation between these groups of students as they mature and enter adulthood. This study sheds light on a problem that many people might believe has already been solved. The Civil Rights movement, of the 1950s and 60s aimed to end the divide between white and black citizens in every aspect of life, including schools. Even though the movement itself is now a thing of the past, the goals set by influential figures like Martin Luther King Jr. himself are still out of reach. King’s dream hasn’t been completely fulfilled, even after half a century of effort.
Although depressing, this new report presents a problem with a plausible solution. If the best teachers in the country were evenly distributed throughout all 16,500 of U.S. school systems, then quality instructors would be available to all students, instead of having the most effective teachers clustered together at schools that already have a high-achieving student population. In addition to this, the minimum number of choices a high school must offer for math and science classes, as well as other subjects, should be higher.
There should be AP classes offered at more high schools in order to give students a chance to challenge themselves and experience the same quality of education their peers in larger high schools have.
Students themselves should pay more attention to any racial divides that are prevalent within their schools and try to encourage their peers to take challenging courses. By pulling their friends and classmates onto the fast track to success by taking AP and honors classes together and being involved in school activities, students can play a part in changing the state of education in the United States.
Although CPS does not reflect the statistics highlighted in the study by the U.S. Department of Education, our school district must make an effort to stay the way we are now. CPS teachers should pay much more attention to all their students and make sure they are giving each of their students equal opportunities, and therefore equal chances of succeeding in the future, where they will no longer be in the comfort of RBHS.