Black and Latino students are disciplined more often than white and Asian students, according to national data released Tuesday by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Tuesday.
The data, from 2009, showed a similar pattern in San Francisco, where black students represented less than 12 percent of enrollment but 60 percent of expelled students and more than 42 percent of out-of-school suspensions.
School district officials said that they were aware of the disparity, and that the situation had improved since the federal government collected its data three years ago.
“We’re starting to see change,” said school board member Kim-Shree Maufas.
While black and Latino students still made up the majority of local suspensions last year, the total number had gone down by about 9 percent, or about 275 students, from the year before.
Maufas and other school officials attributed that to the district’s new focus on “restorative practices,” a discipline system that involves discussing problems and solutions within a school community, rather than enforcing rules with punishment.
However, district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe noted that the district is required by state law to expel students for certain types of offenses, including having a gun, selling drugs, or committing sexual assault.
Omar Khalif, a Bayview parent and community organizer, said that suspensions and expulsions only serve to stigmatize students.
“When the kid is made a criminal, what kind of psychological damage is that going to do on the child?” he said. “I’m glad those numbers are out there. If we can have some serious discussions, maybe we can get somewhere.”
Maufas said the board also is concerned about data in the federal report that showed black and Latino students are less likely to take advanced courses or participate in gifted and talented programs. District officials are working to improve access, she said, but meanwhile some high schools have only a handful of Advanced Placement courses, while others have one for every subject.
“It’s not equitable,” Maufas said. “We have to call it out and then we have to be willing to do something about it. This is a priority for us.”