Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 10

GOSPEL WITNESS - Smith you’re interested in here, this is something that we could replicate on a local level to start at least restricting why you can suspend or expel students. Now, the overall trend then that we can see is that students with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be suspended or expelled, and what’s significant about this is that it actually should be a lower rate, because students with disabilities have legal protections that should make it harder to suspend them or expel them. They have to go through certain processes that other students don’t have to if they’re being considered for suspension or expulsion. So, despite the fact that they have these additional legal protections, they’re still being suspended or expelled at a rate three times higher than that of students without disabilities. That shows you how big the impact is. And approximately one-third of Native and black male students with a disability will be suspended or expelled in the United States overall. That’s a third of all the students. Also, Native students are over-represented by three times in terms of school referrals to law enforcement and are the most over-represented group of students for that. But here’s the larger point I want to make: what is the impact here, then, of rendering these entire groups of peoples disposable? They’re not suitable for education. “We’re not going to educate you; we’re going to send you to the prison system.” Does this just impact the students? No, I think it impacts society at large, because, for one, students with one disciplinary action are three times more likely to end up in the juvenile system within a year and five times more likely to drop out of school altogether. So, the idea that getting tough would scare that student into being better doesn’t work. It makes it more likely that they’re going to drop out. I mean, just think about it: once expelled, if the student’s not acting out, what are you going to do, leave them at home all day on their own? That only invites them to find trouble. Some of these strategies on the face of it don’t really make sense, right? First, we need to keep them in a community that can hold them accountable or improve the way they’re able to interact with other people. The idea often is, we need to get rid of the bad students to make things better for the good students. So, you would assume then that if a school had high suspension or expulsion rates, that school would have the most awesome academic performance, because there are only good students left. But actually, even when you control for other factors, having these high suspension/expulsion rates makes academic performance go down. They make things worse for the remaining students. And why is that? Well, if you realize there are some kids who don’t seem to be prospering within our educational system, your thought about that system is not, should we educate differently? Should we be more creative with our teaching? Should we do something different so that we can actually reach all the students? If instead 9