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Study: Black Students Still More Likely To Face Harsh Discipline

The Montgomery Middle School sign is pictured, Feb. 17, 2021.

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: The Montgomery Middle School sign is pictured, Feb. 17, 2021.

A new study published Wednesday shows Black students in San Diego and across the state are still far more likely to receive harsh discipline than their white peers.

Specifically, suspension and expulsion rates are highest for Black boys, foster children and students experiencing homelessness, according to the research published by a team of experts across Southern California that focused on data from the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years.

Listen to this story by Joe Hong.

And the biggest gaps occurred among the youngest students.

RELATED: Black Youth More Likely To Be Detained By San Diego Unified Police

“When we look at this, the highest rates of suspension disparity, it’s not in high school, it’s not in middle school, it’s not even in latter elementary. It’s in early childhood education, kindergarten through third grade where black boys are 522% more likely to be suspended than their peers,” said Luke Wood, an education professor at San Diego State University and one of the lead authors of the study.

Perhaps most disturbing were findings on how often physical restraints and seclusions are used on Black students. Black students make up about 5% of statewide enrollment, but 31% of students disciplined with mechanical restraints.

Reported by Joe Hong , Video by Matthew Bowler

Wood singled out San Diego Unified, saying the district has failed to reduce suspension rates for Black students despite a lot of rhetoric from outgoing Superintendent Cindy Marten on the issue. In fact, according to state data, the district’s suspension rate for Black students increased between 2014 and 2019 from 7.8% to 8.6%.

“In San Diego Unified and in San Diego county in general, we have some of the best schools in the country,” Wood said. “That being said, when it comes to serving Black students, they don’t do as well.”

One of those schools is Montgomery Middle School in the Linda Vista neighborhood, where more than a third of its Black students were suspended during the 2018-2019 school year.

RELATED: Black Students ‘Not Surprised’ By Discipline Disparity At San Diego Unified

District spokeswoman Maureen Magee said no district officials were available to comment on camera for this story.

In an emailed statement, Magee said the racial disparities for school discipline at San Diego Unified are consistent with statewide disparities. She added that the district has pioneered restorative justice programs to reduce the disparities and that it is currently working to reform its police department to ensure all students feel safe on campus.

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