Study: Black students in KCMO suspended more than any other racial group

Posted at 7:45 PM, Sep 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-07 10:16:42-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. ? Kansas City school districts gathered with experts in a summit on Wednesday to get a reality check on the rising number of kids getting suspended each year.

There is a disparity between black students and other races.

Suspensions in all Kansas City grade schools went up 40 percent during the 2015-2016 school year.

African-American boys are being disciplined much more than girls and any other racial group.

Research from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shows that black students are five times more likely to be suspended than white students, and three times more likely than Hispanic or multi-racial students.

Black students are also being suspended longer than other racial groups.

Officials said the numbers are nothing to celebrate, but a way for schools to analyze what they can do differently.

"We're in a situation where we have to really look at how punitive we're being. We also have to take a look at our implicit biases that exist from a racial standpoint, ultimately how we react to kids when they show up in a way that we may not necessarily be accustomed to," Superintendent of the Kansas City Public School District Dr. Mark Bedell said.

Bedell said his district's suspension rates are not where they should be, but have gone down in the past year. He said that it's not that his administrators are only suspending black kids, but the makeup of schools is critical when looking at the statistics.

"I have a school district where I serve a population that is roughly 90 percent children of color, and so at the end of the day, my numbers are going to automatically for children of color look higher than some of the other suburban counterparts," Bedell said.

The takeaway is acknowledging inner-city kids could be in traumatic situations at home, and acting out at school is the result. Experts at the summit say to treat those trauma-rooted outbursts as "simple misbehavior."

KCPS and other districts are using "restorative justice" as an alternative to suspension ? letting the students talk out a solution.

Mayor Sly James said the city aims to get more grants to help embed preventative measures in each KCMO school.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to put a cadre of teachers, administrators, cafeteria workers in the schools who understand the impact of unidentified bias, who understand the impact of trauma," James said.

Research points to restorative justice and other programs that address the students' emotional needs helps them stay awake and alert, and make better decisions, ultimately leading to success in the classroom.