6 Oct 2022


Why Black Males Are Being Suspended Out of School

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In the United States (U.S), s chools have been known to operate and insist on high levels of discipline among both the students and teachers (Mediratta, 2014; Losen, 2014; Taylor et al., 2014; Kaplan & Owings, 2010) . However, despite this, incidences of indiscipline are often recorded. The use of s uspension is one of the most common strategies for instill ing discipline and good behavior amongst students ( Smith & Harper, 2015; Losen & Martinez, 2013; Skiba & Rausch, 2006; Mendez & Knoff, 2003) . In a school setting, suspension refers to the temporary exclusion or sometimes compulsory temporary leave lasting anywhere from some hours to several weeks, which is given to students as a form of punishment ( Smith & Harper, 2015) . During the mandatory leave, the suspended student is not allowed to attend school. Despite the effectiveness of suspension as a form of punishment, its application seems to be racially prejudiced as depicted in the high number of black male students being suspended from school ( Smith & Harper, 2015; Toldson et al., 2015; Monahan et al., 2014; Weatherspoon, 2014; Noguera, 2009; Skiba et al., 2002) . The possible explanation for the skewed statistics is either that the disciplinarians implementing suspension are racially prejudiced or that the black male students are inherently rogue and indiscipline d . This essay is aimed at exploring the reasons for the increasing number of black males being suspended from school. The statistics, as well as possible theories for this phenomenon, will be examined. 

According to the U.S Department of Education Office for Civil rights, African American children constitute 18% of preschool enrollment . O ut of this number, 48% receive more than one out-of-school suspension ( Smith & Harper, 2015; Toldson et al., 2015) . Th is figure is alarming compared to that of the white students who constitute 43% percent of preschool enrollment, and only 26% receive at least one out-of-school suspension ( Smith & Harper, 2015; Toldson et al., 2015; Skiba et al., 2002) . Similarly, out of the total population of preschools children with multiple suspensions, black male students constitute 54%. Subsequently , despite having poor preschool enrollment, the African Americans account for the high est number of students suspended from school . Further, black male students are suspended and expelled at three times the rate at which their w hite counterparts are expelled (Monahan et al., 2014; Noguera, 2009, Skiba et al., 2002) . On a veragely, 5% of white students are suspended compared to 16% of African American students. Given the fact that all students are exposed to s imilar learning conditions and atmosphere, the severity with which suspension is meted against black male students has show n a disparity in the application of the disciplinary approach ( Smith, & Harper, 2015; Weatherspoon, 2014, Skiba et al., 2002) . Comparing the enrolment statistical figures given above, the current black male student population in the American education system is less than one-third of the total male population in the system. 

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Mendez & Knoff (2003) carried out a quantitative study whose primary aim was to examine the out-of-school suspensions in a large, ethnically diverse school by race, gender and infraction type. The study was undertaken to gain sufficient information that could help address the existing gap in the rates of suspension of students of different races and gender . It was also geared towards addressing the infractions that result in suspension of students from various demographic groups. T he study hypothesized that the American education system ethnically targets black male students and end up being suspended more. T he study found that black male students are over-represented in suspensions across all infractions, ranging from minor misbehavior, unfounded allegations, disobedience, and perceived group motifs ( Mendez & Knoff , 2003 ) . Similarly, by analyzing the top fifteen reasons given for suspensions, it was discovered that black male students were over-represented in most of the grounds stated for suspensions . This is because no particular negative behavior was found outstanding amongst the reasons given for suspension of the black male students. F urther , t he study noted that there is a strong relationship between gender, race and the number of suspensions across schools. For instance, black male students have a high er risk of suspensio n compared to the white students and black female students (Toldson et al., 2015; Weissman, 2015; Smith & Haper , 2015 ; Losen & Martinez, 2013; Sherman & Jacobs, 2011; Skiba & Rausch, 2006; Mendez & Knoff , 2003 ). 

Smith & Haper (2015) also carried out a quantitative research study to establish the disproportionate impact of K-12 school suspensions and expulsion of black students in southern states . The authors established that approximately 1.2 million male black students are suspended from K-12 public schools in every single academic year . Likewise, 55% of th ese suspension s occur in the thirteen southern states. The states of the south were also found to account for 50% of all expulsions of black student s from the U.S public schools. The study subsequently established that black male students are disproportionately suspended, expelled and refer red to criminal justice systems or behavior rehabilitation centers ( Smith & Haper , 2015 ; Losen & Martinez, 2013; Sherman & Jacobs, 2011) . Thus , the apparent overuse of suspensions and expulsions as modes of punishment alongside the disproportionate targeting of st udents of color are serious problems that need to be addressed urgently . This is for the sake of social unity and ensuring equal access to education which is a fundamental right for all students . While the concept and hence formulation of zero tolerance to indiscipline policies were supposedly meant to ensure safety for all students, the enact ment of these policies through rigid practices and predetermined consequences has substantially limited discretion in individual cases (Mediratta, 2014; Losen, 2014). Subsequently, it has led to increased rates of dropout, especially amongst black male students.

In most studies on the American education system, scholars have established overrepresentation of minority groups in school punishment. This implies that racial discrimination is the primary driver of the growing number of black male students being suspended . D espite increased public awareness and the extensive use of campaigns to promote a cohesive society, racial discrimination is still a menace in the American education system. This is exemplified by the discriminat e use of suspension. In conclusion , the use of suspension as a disciplinary measure has not been effective owing to its disproportionate application. 


Kaplan, L., & Owings, W. (2010). American education: Building a common foundation . Cengage Learning. 

Losen, D. J. (Ed.). (2014). Closing the school discipline gap: Equitable remedies for excessive exclusion . Teachers College Press. 

Losen, D. J., & Martinez, T. E. (2013). Out of school and off track: The overuse of suspensions in American middle and high schools. K-12 Racial Disparities in School Discipline

Mediratta, K. (2014). Schools Must Abandon Zero-Tolerance Discipline. Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/07/24/37mediratta.h33.html 

Mendez, L. M. R., & Knoff, H. M. (2003). Who gets suspended from school and why: A demographic analysis of schools and disciplinary infractions in a large school district. Education and Treatment of Children , 30-51. 

Monahan, K. C., VanDerhei, S., Bechtold, J., & Cauffman, E. (2014). From the school yard to the squad car: School discipline, truancy, and arrest. Journal of Youth and Adolescence , 43 (7), 1110-1122. 

Noguera, P. A. (2009). The trouble with black boys: ... And other reflections on race, equity, and the future of public education . John Wiley & Sons. 

Sherman, F., & Jacobs, F. (2011). Juvenile justice: advancing research, policy, and practice . John Wiley & Sons. 

Skiba, R. J., Michael, R. S., Nardo, A. C., & Peterson, R. L. (2002). The color of discipline: Sources of racial and gender disproportionality in school punishment. The urban review , 34 (4), 317-342. 

Skiba, R. J., & Rausch, M. K. (2006). Zero tolerance, suspension, and expulsion: Questions of equity and effectiveness. Handbook of classroom management: Research, practice, and contemporary issues , 1063-1089. 

Smith, E. J., & Harper, S. R. (2015). Disproportionate impact of K-12 school suspension and expulsion on Black students in southern states. Centre for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA: 2015). 

Taylor, J., Cregor, M., & Lane, P. (2014). Not measuring up: The state of school discipline in Massachusetts. Boston, MA: Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice

Toldson, I. A., McGee, T., & Lemmons, B. P. (2015). Reducing suspensions by improving academic engagement among school-age Black males. Closing the school discipline gap: Equitable remedies for excessive exclusion , 107-117. 

Weatherspoon, F. (2014). African-American Males and the US Justice System of Marginalization: A National Tragedy . Springer. 

Weissman, M. (2015). Prelude to prison: Student perspectives on school suspension . Syracuse University Press. 

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