Study accuses Ark. schools of disciplining certain group more harshly

Arkansas schools are being accused of disciplining certain students more than others. A study released today reveals that Black students are more likely to be punished than their White peers.

"We do have some districts with some problems," said Jerri Derlikowski, Director of Education Policy at the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

Derlikowski says the problem is that thirteen school districts in the state are punishing Black students much more frequently and severely than Whites. The main reason, she says, is lack of time and effort on the school's part. This is according to the report, Keeping Kids in Class: Fixing Racial Disparities in School Discipline.

"Some leadership issues it takes a lot of effort," said Derlikowski. "It's harder to do more constructive kinds of discipline," she said.

Dr. Brenda Bowles of the Pulaski County Special School District wasn't surprised that her district made the report's list. But she insists they've made serious efforts to address the issue.

"We recognize that we have a problem when it comes to disproportionate discipline," said Dr. Bowles. "We have a student committee that looks at it, we've piloted several programs to work to address this problem," she said.

Both the district and researchers agree that lack of diversity among teachers contributes to the problem.

"Most school curriculums is based on White middle class standards," said Dr. Bowles. "And we have students that come to school that are non-White, that are not middle class there's a mix match," she said.

But with studies showing that kids who have been suspended just once being much less likely to graduate, Derlikowski says schools need to come up with a better solution soon.

"We're hoping that school will get a conversation going and we can share ideas and maybe take some more constructive practices to help students," said Derlikowski.

Arkansas ranks 15th worst in the nation for student suspensions regardless of race.

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