Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 9

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE and if you look here, the suspension rate for African American male students with a disability is 59 percent—that’s the majority—and it’s 50 percent for Native students. That’s how astronomically high the rate is. In Chicago, the suspension rate for Native American students with disabilities is 100 percent. Every single Native student with a disability is suspended or expelled. That’s kind of high. And, also, if we look here at the referrals to law enforcement, we see a major disproportionate impact on Native students. If we look at students without disabilities, less than 1 percent are referred to law enforcement. But for Native students with disabilities, it’s 16 percent. That’s a hugely disproportionate representation of Native students with disabilities who are getting referred to law enforcement. And if you’re getting referred to law enforcement, you’re very quickly being diverted into the criminal justice system. But let’s not let Portland off the hook. I went and looked up the statistics for Portland today. This is the suspension rate for students with disabilities in Portland—note, it’s 2 percent for students without disabilities. Look at Native Hawaiian students: it’s 50 percent. So, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students, those are the groups being targeted in this area, because often different groups are targeted in different areas. Fifty percent of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students with disabilities are suspended here in this city. If you look at the expulsion rate, it’s about 2 percent for students without disabilities for everything. It’s 25 percent for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students. So, you see, each place has different groups that get targeted, but you can see how astronomically greater it is particularly for Native students—and, nationally speaking, also for black students. The other thing I think it’s important to note is the racial disparity not only in terms of how many students are suspended or expelled but why they are suspended or expelled. Statistically, there is a disparity between white and black students for suspension for crimes of violence or drugs or weapons. And yes more black students are suspended than white students, but the difference is not as extreme. But there is a huge difference between the two groups when the crime being suspended for is willful defiance. Now, what is willful defiance? (Response from the audience.) Right, exactly: “I don’t like the way you looked at me,” right? In fact, you might say being black or Native is itself willful defiance sometimes in the United States. Just your persona can represent willful defiance to the larger society. I bring this to your attention because a posit ive thing is there’s been a growing movement to ban suspensions for willful defiance. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland in California have banned suspensions, and they’ve also restricted expulsions, for willful defiance on a statewide basis. So, if this is something 8