Virtual School Meanderings

December 5, 2022

Report on school suspensions perpetuates harmful stereotypes

A second “Think Twice” review of a think tank report from the folks at the National Education Policy Center.

Inside Look

Great Lakes Center’s exclusive subscriber email featuring key points, information and social media content about reviews and research

Dec. 1, 2022READ IN BROWSER
Hello, Great Lakes Center subscriber:

After concerns about racial discrimination in school disciplinary policies, Milwaukee Public Schools in 2017 worked with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights to implement changes combatting racial disparities in discipline, inconsistent use of policies, incomplete documentation and a lack of training on discipline policies.
A report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) reports on the results of those changes and suggests a direct connection between school suspension rates and students’ perceptions of safety in Milwaukee schools. WILL authors claim a link between unpunished misconduct in the classroom and disruptive classroom environments, which ultimately harms Black students.

Read on to learn more.

Maddie Fennell

Executive Director
Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

REPORT REVIEWED

Kathryn E. Wiley and Kate Somerville of the University of Colorado Boulder reviewed “Suspended Reality: The Impact of Suspension Policy on Student Safety.”

WHAT THE REVIEWER FOUND

Wiley and Somerville found various concerns in the report, including unsupported claims, misleading interpretations and the use of racial stereotypes of Black students.

The report claims that after an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, lower suspension rates for Black students were associated with higher numbers of students reporting feeling unsafe in school.

Boldly, the report’s authors highlight this correlation in a heading within the report reading, “Reduced Suspension for African American Students Resulted in Lower Reports of Safety.”

The report incorrectly asserts that a drop in the suspensions of Black students causes fewer students to feel safe, leading to the conclusion that the changes implemented harm Black students.
The report argues that instead of helping Black students, the agreement between the Office for Civil Rights and Milwaukee Public Schools instead created schools in which Black students are disrupting class without punishment and that efforts to reduce suspensions are “misguided.”
Wiley and Somerville note the report ignores peer-reviewed research and oversimplifies relevant issues. The report includes another finding that as the suspension rate fell, the percentage of students feeling unsafe in the overall student population also dropped, but interestingly that’s not what the authors focus on.
Because of its flaws, the report’s policy conclusions are not useful to policymakers. Educators and policymakers should continue to use peer-reviewed, evidence-based research on school discipline and racial disparities.
The authors of the review also recommend policymakers consider whether adequate support is in place for schools to implement alternatives to suspensions. They note simply reducing the number of suspensions is not a comprehensive reform.

Read the full review on the Great Lakes Center website or on the National Education Policy Center website.

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE

The issues identified by the Office for Civil Rights aren’t exclusive to Milwaukee Public Schools. Information that reinforces stereotypes about Black students and attempts to call into question measures that could be taken to protect these students and increase equality in the classroom should be scrutinized. Using peer-reviewed, evidence-based research on school discipline would provide a clearer picture of how to serve all students so that every student has equal opportunities to learn at school.

TALKING POINTS TO REMEMBER

  1. A report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty argues changes implemented in Milwaukee Public Schools regarding suspensions are “misguided.”
  1. A review found various concerns in the report, including unsupported claims, misleading interpretations and the use of racial stereotypes of Black students.
  1. Policymakers should not use the policy conclusions of the report, and instead should consider whether adequate support is in place for schools to implement alternatives to suspensions.

SOCIAL SHARES

Want to share this Think Twice Review with your social networks? We drafted some sample social media posts for your use.
A report on #SchoolSuspensions makes unsupported claims that will harm Black students. Read a review of the report: A report on #SchoolSuspensions makes unsupported claims that will harm Black students. Read a review of the report:
A @nepctweet review found unsupported claims and the use of racial stereotypes in a report on #SchoolSuspensions. Read the review: A @nepctweet review found unsupported claims and the use of racial stereotypes in a report on #SchoolSuspensions. Read the review:
Policymakers should investigate if schools have adequate support to implement alternatives to #SchoolSuspensions. Learn more: Policymakers should investigate if schools have adequate support to implement alternatives to #SchoolSuspensions. Learn more:
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Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
Copyright © 2019 Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice, All rights reserved.
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