The US Department of Education wants to know:
African-American students are suspended from school more than three times as often as white students from elementary schools to high schools.
More than one-fourth of black middle schoolers have received short-term suspensions every year since 1996. Native Americans are disciplined more often than Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Now the U.S. Department of Education is investigating whether Seattle Public Schools discriminates against African Americans by disciplining them “more frequently and more harshly than similarly situated white students,” department spokesman Jim Bradshaw said Tuesday.
Only an investigation will answer this question. But Seattle Public Schools certainly seem to have applied double standards over the years. The district shuttered a bunch of schools in 2009 in South Seattle, which has a much larger population of people of color, despite protests from African American communities and demographic studies that showed the population would grow in those neighborhoods (now the district is in the process of re-opening some of those schools). And when teachers at Garfield High School in the Central District complained recently that the MAP standardized testing wasn't effective and performed a major boycott, the district ignored their complaints and ordered teachers to administered the test anyway. In other words, the district had little sympathy for the schools in blacker and browner neighborhoods. But holy cow, when there was one, single, tiny complaint about a racial justice program last month at the Center School—close to lily-white Queen Anne and Magnolia neighborhoods—what did the district do? They suspended the whole racial justice curriculum because talking about race in school might be creating an "intimidating educational environment." So, uh, punishing black kids more harshly and closing their schools doesn't make for an "intimidating educational environment"?
Let me be clear: These anecdotes and these suspension rates alone don't prove there's a double-standard at play, but they help explain why the Feds want to get to the bottom of this. It will be great to see what they find.