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Does racial bias in America begin inside public school classrooms?

Judge for yourself. A new study shows that America’s teachers and administrators frequently address behavioral problems with students strictly along racial lines.

The study, which was recently released by the journal Sociology of Education, shows that African-American students with behavioral problems are far more likely to be punished with expulsions, suspensions — and sometimes even arrested and forced into the criminal justice system — while white students are routinely steered into special education programs and treated for learning disabilities when they behave badly.

Black educators and parents say the study confirms their beliefs. For years, civil rights activists have argued that a racially biased culture in the nation’s school system has worked against Black students but some of their complaints have usually been dismissed.

A new study conducted by Pennsylvania State University assistant professor of sociology and criminology David Ramey, suggests that there is a disturbing pattern that leads to the “criminalization” of young Black students.

Ramey analyzed the rates of suspensions, expulsions and police referrals at 59,000 schools and 6,000 school districts across the country and concluded that poor schools that have more Black and minority students tend to punish students rather than seek medical or psychological interventions for them.

“The bulk of my earlier research looked at how, for the same minor levels of misbehaviors — for example, classroom disruptions, talking back — white kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem, while black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn,” Ramey said in a Penn State University press release.

The Sociology of Education report comes as the U.S. Department of Justice released a report last month blasting the Family Court of St. Louis (Missouri) County saying that Black youths are treated more harshly than whites and Black juveniles are often deprived of constitutional rights. The report raises nagging questions about racial discrimination in an area where Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer last year.

“In short, Black children are subjected to harsher treatment because of their race,” Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta wrote in a letter to Gov. Jay Nixon, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and Family Court Administrative Judge Thea Sherry. She called the findings “serious and compelling.”

Suspensions Disproportionately Applied To Black Children Mean Racism Begins Early  was originally published on

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