Report: Gwinnett schools show more punishment for minorities than white students

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga.,None - The U.S. Department of Education issued a report this week showing black and Hispanic students are punished more often than white students in Gwinnett County, Georgia's largest school district.

While collecting the data for the national "Civil Rights Data Collection," the department looked at thousands of school districts, including 160 in Georgia.

The federal government said their sampling size covered 85 percent of all students in the United States.

Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh studied the specific report for Gwinnett County, as it is the state's largest school district, and found the data in Gwinnett mirrors a national trend.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education calls their new data troubling.

Nationally and locally, students of color are punished more often and possibly more harshly than their white student peers.

The report looked at the 2009-2010 school year. That year in Gwinnett County, enrollment was about 160,000 students. They were 32.7 percent white, 27.5 percent black, 25.2 percent Hispanic and 10.1 percent Asian.

But the percentages shift when you look at "out of school" suspensions issued that same year.

Of the 11,205 suspensions in 2009, 44.2 percent or 4,952 were issued to black students, 29.7 percent or 3,327 to Hispanics, and 17.1 percent or 1,966 to white students.

"My first was to the dis-proportionality of the data," Marlyn Tillman with local parent coalition Gwinnett STOPP said.

Tillman and her colleague Sharon Capers said the figures should sound an alarm.

"I think a lot of behavior problems are often learning problems and I can't say that enough," Capers said.

There were far fewer expulsions in 2009, but the numbers are still telling.

In 2009, the Gwinnett district expelled 15 students. Data shows 10 were black students, five were Hispanic students.

"What this data does not tell us is why the students were punished, what were the infractions. They do not go that deep. But parents say on a broad level, the numbers speak for themselves," Capers said.

This coalition says they hope the district will use the numbers as a starting point for change.

"It's time to do something different," Tillman said.


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The district would not do an interview. Instead a spokesperson emailed the following statement: "The Office of Civil Rights data indicates that Gwinnett County Public Schools is doing a good job in terms of providing rigorous classes to all of our students as we prepare them for college and careers. In terms of discipline, our data reflects a national issue.

"In GCPS, we have taken a number of proactive steps to address discipline and to help keep students in school. Some of these include a community-based mentoring program that partners middle school African American male students with positive male mentors; the advisement program available at all middle and high schools that provides a caring adult for every student; and mini-lessons that address bullying and making good decisions.

"Many of our schools also use the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports program, also known as PBIS, which teaches students about the school's expectations and recognizes students for making good choices in an effort to build a positive school culture.

"In addition, our Office of Student Discipline has made nearly 200 presentations this year to date to teachers, parents, and community groups regarding strategies to address behavior issues and how to help students make better decisions."