Why are minority kids disciplined more often? (5×8 – 4/1213)

Bias or behavior, the legend of the hearty Minnesotan, the hospital feud with a man who wouldn’t leave his partner’s bedside, rapping against the ‘R word,’ and a sports coach pushes back.


1) BIAS OR BEHAVIOR?

There’s not much dispute about this fact: African American students get suspended from school more often than white kids. But there remains disagreement on whether it’s a sign of bias in the system or a behavior problem by race.

“I don’t think I can explain it,” Minneapolis school superintendent Bernadeia Johnson tells MPR News. “I can tell you that it’s disturbing, that it’s concerning, and it’s something that we must address.” But it’s been this way for years. African American kids are seven times more likely to be suspended than white kids. MPR’s Laura Yuen reports the situation isn’t much better for Native American kids.

Superintendent Johnson says a situation with her own daughter may reveal what part of the problem is:


Johnson recalls the time her daughter, Briana, was playing on the softball field when a girl named Jane, who was white, slapped her in the face. Jane started to scream, and teachers initially assumed it was Briana who slapped the other girl.

The teachers struggled to mete out an appropriate punishment for Jane, Johnson said. She believes race did play a factor in how the teachers handled the situation.

“They really didn’t want to suspend her, but knew she should have a consequence,” Johnson said. “And I was clear that if it was my daughter who slapped her, she would have been suspended, and all of this problem-solving may not have happened.”

NPR considered this situation in a Talk of the Nation broadcast last year.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports today that the practice of putting more police officers in schools is leading to more kids in court instead of the principal’s office. Thousands of schools get federal subsidies to add the police, but it may be doing as much harm as good.

“There is no evidence that placing officers in the schools improves safety,” said Denise C. Gottfredson, a criminologist at the University of Maryland who is an expert in school violence. “And it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system.”

Related: Markham-Cousins ousted as principal of Washburn. (Star Tribune)

2) THE LEGEND OF THE HEARTY MINNESOTAN

We’d like to thank Ben Garvin at the Pioneer Press for destroying the myth of the hearty Minnesotan who laughs at the weather.

Does that first guy look familiar to you?

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Out in Hendricks, Steve Hemmingsen, who writes a really great daily e-mail newsletter, notes that in a snowstorm there, people relish the opportunity to play with an important status symbol. Click the image to read.

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More weather:It’s April. What did you expect?” (Duluth News Tribune)

Related: A new study suggests seasonal changes have a much bigger impact on mental health than previously thought.

3) THE HOSPITAL FEUD

In Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Roger Gorley refused to leave the hospital bedside of his partner, Allen. Missouri doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, but does recognize civil unions, not that it mattered here. The hospital security forcibly removed him from the property and put him in handcuffs, and calls it a case of belligerent behavior.

Related: Dannika Nash, of South Dakota, attends a concert, then writes a letter to her church.


So, my advice to you, the Church: if you’re looking for some intelligent biblical liberal opinions on the subject, have a little coffee chat with your local Methodist or Episcopal pastor. Christians can be all about gay people, it’s possible. People do it every day with a clear biblical conscience. Find out if you think there’s truth in that view before you sweep us under the rug. You CAN have a conservative view on gay marriage, or gay ordination. You can. But I want you to have some serious conversations with God, your friends that disagree with you, and maybe even some gay people, Christians or not, before you decide that this one view is worth marginalizing my generation. Weigh those politics against what you’re giving up: us. We want to stay in your churches, we want to hear about your Jesus, but it’s hard to hear about love from a God who doesn’t love our gay friends (and we all have gay friends). Help us find love in the church before we look for it outside.

Oh, and can we please please PLEASE stop changing our Facebook profile pictures to crosses in a protest against gay marriage? You are taking a symbol of hope and redemption and using it to make a political point. No matter what you think, that has to stop. It’s a misrepresentation of what that symbol means.

(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)

4) KIDS TODAY, EH? (CONT’D)

Justin Hammer, an Orono High School, doesn’t much care for the use of “retarded” that he often hears people use. So he remixed the Macklemore “Same Love” song, and then performed it at the school variety show.

“Justin is trying to make a difference in our generation through music, I also feel that since he is considered a ‘jock’ by being the captain of the basketball team that he as a special opportunity to get kids listen to him and change the way kids use this hurtful word,” his friend Rainey Bittman wrote in a note this week.

Mr. Hammer isn’t stopping there. He’s performing the song at other schools that have asked. Next week, he’ll perform at White Bear Lake High School.

It’s part of the “R Word – Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign.

5) THE COACH SOUNDS OFF

In recent weeks — it seems to coincide with late-season winter sports — there have been several stories about parents going after their kids’ coaches. It’s all taken care of behind closed doors. Sometimes the coach gets fired, sometimes he/she stays.

Writing in a Star Tribune commentary today, Kevin A. Keto, a Saint Paul teacher and coach, sounds off:


My mother has always said, “If a mom didn’t think her kid was the best, nobody would.” Every young athlete deserves a mother and/or father who tells them they are the best. But if parents were half as committed to facilitating their children’s personal growth as they are to monitoring playing time and coaching errors, teams could actually demonstrate teamwork, athletes could feel good about their efforts, players could trust and respect their teammates and coaches — and at the end of the day each kid could sit around a dinner table and feel like a star.

The culture of high school sports is in the midst of a dramatic shift. Sit among the fans at a game, a booster club meeting or an end-of-the-year banquet, and it will become alarmingly obvious that youth athletics are becoming an investment — of money, time and pride — and parents are going to expect a return.

Bonus I: Science! “One small step for man… is literally one step.”

Bonus II: Just because it’s a Friday.

WHAT WE’RE DOING

There will be a News Cut Quiz this week. Look for it around 11 a.m.

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: A roundtable of artists will examine the things they wish they knew when they started their careers, what they might have done differently, and what they believe the role of the artist to be.

Second hour: Tax advice.

Third hour: How do students and their parents get the best financial aid deal possible?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): North Korea experts Philip Yun and David Straub answer questions in a Commonwealth Club Town Hall Meeting held in California this week.

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – A journey through your guts, with

science writer Mary Roach, author of the new book “Gulp.”

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Texas singer Dale Watson writes songs about two-stepping, waltzing, and having fun drinking in moderation, of course. NPR looks at the honky tonk world of Dale Watson and his new album, El Rancho Azul.

A school in Arlington, Minn., is leading the way to show how institutions can use more local food by freezing it. The cafeteria takes food grown in a student-tended plot, freezes it and serves it up all year long in everything from pumpkin bars to chow mein. The labor is intensive and financial savings are uncertain, but local food advocates say it can be one important way to solve the Minnesota problem of having a growing season that’s too short for the local food demand. Jennifer Vogel will have details.

  • Kassie

    While I don’t think it isn’t just a race thing, it very well could be, I wonder if it could also be a class thing. White families in Minneapolis tend to be well educated and middle to middle upper class. Families of color tend to be poorer and less well educated. Educators may find that suspending a child of color may be easier because those children’s parents are less likely to have time/energy/ability to fight the suspension due to working multiple jobs, having less access to legal representation, unable to communicate effectively with the school, etc.

    I’d be interested in seeing that if white children on free or reduced lunches get suspended at the same rate as children of color on free or reduced lunches.

  • Bob Collins

    Back when one of my kids was in middle school, it was revealed to us by a teacher that the kids from the high-end part of town were not disciplined like the working-class kids because the “Wedgewood parents” (as they were known) would raise a major ruckus. So if two kids got into the fight, only one kid got suspended because the office didn’t want the hassle of fighting the rich parents with lots of resources to bear.

    Not a racial situation there, but an economic influence one.

  • Christin

    At my son’s school there is a level 3 special education classroom for students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. My son (who happens to be bi-racial) described the class as a “special program for poor black kids from the midway neighborhood”.” Hearing my son’s perception was very troubling.

  • Laura

    Christin-that comment makes me want to give your son a hug. Kids have such burdens to bear.

  • Chris Nelson

    That letter from Dannika Nash is heartbreaking. I wasn’t raised religiously, so I don’t really have the background to address all her points.

    I’m glad I’m not part of an organization that has such an all-or-nothing approach to such nuanced issues.

  • Kevin Watterson

    “Johnson recalls the time her daughter, Briana, was playing on the softball field when a girl named Jane, who was white, slapped her in the face. Jane started to scream, and teachers initially assumed it was Briana who slapped the other girl.”

    In other words, they did the same thing that happens in almost every NFL game.