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NAACP Says Indiana Schools Have Discipline Disparities

The NAACP says black students were disciplined for vague infractions such as "insubordination."

The NAACP is urging the state to keep closer tabs on disparities between how white and minority children are disciplined. The organization says discipline data it reviewed for Marion County school districts indicate the schools with the largest African-American populations suspended black students in twice the proportions one would expect based on population.

NAACP education co-chairman Carole Craig, a former IPS principal, says black students were more likely to be disciplined for attitude problems such as insubordination, while suspensions of white students tended to be for more specific wrongdoing such as drugs or vandalism. A 2004 state law urges schools to make efforts to avoid disproportionate discipline but does not require any specific action.

The Department of Education posts a model disciplinary policy on its website as a guideline, but schools decide their own policies. Still, Craig says the NAACP is not asking legislators to upgrade that recommendation to a requirement.

“There are dangers and cautions when you do have language that says ‘must,’ even though there are times we wish that would happen,” she says. “We want to be sure that children are well served.”

She says the organization has outreach programs in some schools to explain to students what is expected of them but says schools should be more conscious of cultural differences that can come across as disrespect.

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