Austin ISD has a problem when it comes to suspending students.
“What you continue to see is an overrepresentation of African-American males and then Latino students,” said Paul Saldana, vice-president of AISD Board of Trustees.
Despite being just eight percent of students, more than ten percent of the black student population particularly were sent home last school year. Latino students follow closely behind. Well, why is this?
“That's a good question. I'd like to know that as a parent,” said Latisha Anderson.
Anderson has a nephew who has been suspended before in AISD.
“Some might say well it starts at home. He gets the discipline at home. When you send him to school you don't expect to get calls just about every day for something. It can be something as small as ‘well why do you have a hoodie on’?" said Anderson.
Anderson thinks the answer is cultural.
“You have parents working two and three jobs. That child may be the parent the younger siblings know,” said Anderson.
Dr. Kevin Cokley is a professor at UT. One of his focuses is on African-American student psychology.
“Teachers, although well intentioned, are human and they suffer from what most of us suffer from which is implicit biases,” said Cokley.
Cokely's published work shows the trend is nationwide, particularly in southern states.
“A report came out from the University of Pennsylvania looking at southern schools and it found that across the states, you saw a pronounced pattern of racial disparities in discipline.
The district has already begun implementing some solutions.
“Having the students and kids talk about what it means to take on the responsibility rather than just take them out of the classroom,” said Saldana.
They hope to have teachers build more positive relationships with students so the cycle doesn't continue
“All it takes is a simple conversation,” said Anderson.
The district just conducted an equity survey that was given to teachers and principals. The results show they strongly feel students of color are disproportionately disciplined. Austin ISD is looking at doing away completely with home suspensions.