In schools across the United States, Black students and other students of color are being harshly punished, arrested and issued citations at school for behavior that is not very different from white students. Students with disabilities are being excluded from the classroom through suspensions and expulsions and referred to the police for manifestations of their disabilities. And students of color who have disabilities experience compounded harms of racism and ableism.
What does this look like?
- Students with disabilities are referred to juvenile justice at rates 5 times higher than students without disabilities.
- Pennsylvania has the 2nd highest arrest rate in the country for Black students.
- 45 percent of Black boys and 26 percent of Black girls that Pittsburgh Public School Police refer to juvenile justice have disabilities.
Most of the infractions that result in criminal charges are minor and do not threaten school safety: being "disruptive," using "offensive" language, arguments where no one is injured. These patterns of over-policing further the myth that students of color engage in actions that are more dangerous than their white peers, which is unsupported by data. When police become involved in non-criminal disciplinary matters, the consequences for students, particularly students of color and those with disabilities can be profound and long-lasting.
This session will explore these issues in more depth, including the factors that contribute to widespread patterns of unfair discipline and policing, and changes in policy and practice that can build public schools that are safe, affirming, and inclusive for all students.
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