Increasingly, individual stories have come to light about punitive and subjective zero tolerance policies that contribute to the school to prison pipeline. As we outlined in our recent Better than Zero report and through our work with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Forward Promise grantees we know how powerful stories can be to highlight an issue. This is one of those stories.
In NPR Illinois Public Radio’s series Black and White, education reporter Dusty Rhodes explores racial disparities in school discipline through the lens of student Paris Taborn. Paris, who was a straight A student athlete in Springfield, IL, was frequently sent home from school as a result of tardiness and dress code violations. She missed so much class that her grades began to fall. As a result of this discipline policy, Paris chose to transfer to the Springfield NAACP Back-to-School/Stay-in-School Alternative Education Program, where she graduated in May.
Paris is not alone. According to the article, black students at Franklin House Middle School in Springfield, IL, for example, were five times more likely to get an in school suspension than white students in 2011. In 2014, the likelihood of black students receiving in school suspensions increased, and black students were nine times more likely than white students to receive an in school suspension. It is clear that black students in Springfield are being disproportionately disciplined at school, and as a result are at risk of falling behind in their studies.