Center on Race and Social Problems

Over-punishing kids for minor infractions sets them on wrong path, CRSP prof says

University Times discusses CRSP faculty James Huguley's recent lecture on strategies to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline:

Huguley said: “Racial gaps exist beyond what we would expect from socio-economic status.” In fact, studies have discovered that black students are disciplined more for some behaviors than whites, and black students are suspended more often for the same behavior than whites.
The No. 1 predictor of whether more kids will be suspended in a school, he reported, is the school principal’s attitude toward discipline.

“It would be one thing if these methods were effective,” Huguley said, although he admitted “it has an intuitive appeal”: Using law enforcement to discipline students would seem to be a deterrent, to keep all students safer and to make classes more teachable.

“The problem is,” he said, “it hasn’t worked.” He cited studies that showed students who were suspended just once were two-three times more likely to repeat a grade or drop out of school. Multiple suspensions also increased the suspended students’ misbehavior and lowered their school achievement, hurting not only these kids but their schools’ own records of achievement and graduation rates. Increased suspensions means decreased math and reading scores for suspended students, he said.