NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Zero Tolerance" Policies' Effect On Black Students

December 17, 1999

In the past two years, "zero tolerance" policies toward "aggressive behavior and other security violations" in public schools have spread nationwide. According to a survey by the Applied Research Center of Oakland, Calif., black students have been expelled or suspended at a rate disproportionate to their numbers.

The survey of 10 mostly large school districts found that in some cases African American students were removed from school three to five times more frequently than white students.

  • In Phoenix, were blacks make up only 4 percent of the high school student population, they received 21 percent of the expulsions or suspensions, compared with white students.
  • White students, by contrast, constituted 74 percent of the enrollment and received 18 percent of the expulsions or suspensions.
  • In San Francisco, Blacks constituted 16 percent of the enrollment but accounted for 52 percent of the removals from school on disciplinary grounds.

The center did not release figures for Hispanics or other minority students. It expects to release a complete report for the entire country in February 2000.

Source: William Claiborne, "Disparity in School Discipline Found," Washington Post, December 17, 1999.


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