"Frankly Speaking" Blog

Changing the picture of school suspensions

Georgia Legal Services recently compiled discipline statistics from all Georgia school districts and found disturbing inequalities in the punishments handed out to black students. According to a Dec. 27, 2014 article published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, consistent research and data show black students are punished more severely for even mild transgressions.

For all the attention placed on problems that black boys face in terms of school discipline and criminal justice, there is increasing focus on the way those issues affect black girls as well.

Check out the New York Times story about one extraordinary metro Atlanta school discipline case in which a black female student and her friend were guilty of vandalism for writing graffiti on the wall of a gym bathroom. The black female student’s family could not pay the $100 in restitution, so the student faced a school disciplinary hearing and a visit from the local Sheriff’s Department who served her grandmother papers accusing her of trespassing misdemeanor and, potentially, a felony. Her friend, who is white, was let go after her parents paid restitution.

This type of disparate treatment is not a unique case, but messages at school are sent daily that actions by African-American children must be punished more severely than those by white children. It’s little wonder that the same dynamic plays out when those children are grown and confronting each other on the street.

At Communities In Schools of Atlanta, we’ve been proven to reduce the number of school suspensions among the students we serve. We reached over 1,300 students with intensive case management services in the 2013-2014 academic year, of which 85.3% were African-American.

In DeKalb County, 64% of caseload students had multiple out-of-school suspensions during the prior school year. However, by the end of 2013-2014, the numbers were reversed and 61% of our caseload students had NO suspensions during the school year.

How do we get such results? Our site coordinators provide integrated student services based on individualized plans developed through discussions with students and parents. For example, of the 371 CIS caseload students served in Fulton County schools, 77% students received some form of service from CIS intended to improve behavior, including incentive programs, individual counseling and group activities.

Our results show that our students improve their behavior, stay in school and get promoted. We invite you to join our efforts because together we will continue to improve outcomes for at-risk students and help #ChangeThePicture of education in our communities across the country.

Frank Brown, Esq.
Executive Director
Communities In Schools of Atlanta