Study: Race, gender affect CMS discipline

06/07/2014 12:00 AM

06/06/2014 5:07 PM

A study of four years of discipline data has shown that a student’s race, gender and disability status factor into how discipline is administered in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools – a pattern officials say they’re working to change.

The Council for Children’s Rights conducted the study that compares local data from incidents in grades six to 12 with national statistics. The report’s findings were recently presented to the school board as an update from the Race Matters for Juvenile Justice organization. The group represents a collaboration of local agencies.

The recent study considered two questions: whether race, gender and disability status made a difference in CMS’ out-of-school suspension rates, as well as whether those same factors affected the degree of discipline taken when students had similar offenses.

Susan Campbell, executive director of the Council for Children’s Rights, said that local and national patterns both show that race, gender and disability impact the levels of discipline taken, even for the same types of infractions.

Among the report’s summaries:

• Black males with a disability are the students with the highest probability of receiving out-of-school suspensions.
• Black and Hispanic students are more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions than white students.
• Students with a disability, particularly those with a serious emotional disability, are more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions than students without a disability.
• The majority of offenses are behavioral infractions, such as disrespect, disorderly conduct or inappropriate language, for which minority students and those with a disability are more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension.

The report was also presented to school principals in March, said Ann Clark, CMS deputy superintendent. Each school’s individual data was examined.

Clark said that other steps toward equity within CMS are either already in place or planned.

It’s a goal for the majority of CMS administrators, principals and assistant principals to complete a two-day professional development seminar called “Dismantling Racism” – which challenges how race, gender and disabilities factor into student disciplinary action – by the end of summer, Clark said.

A districtwide leadership team will continue to look for other ways to address disparities in how student discipline is handled, she said.

Race Matters for Juvenile Justice was initially formed in 2010 by juvenile judges in the state’s 26th Judicial District. The organization partners with CMS, the Council for Children’s Rights, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, juvenile court officials and personnel, members of the faith community and other local agencies.

Elisa Chinn Gary, administrator of juvenile and family courts in Mecklenburg County and a co-chair of RMJJ, said that while these kinds of disparities may exist nationwide, addressing them requires a collaborative effort from various agencies, including school systems, child welfare and law enforcement.

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