Schools must better understand race -- Catherine Jagoe

January 15, 2019

The State Journal on Jan. 5 published a jaw-dropping Chicago Tribune editorial Jan. 5, “Behavior most responsible for race gap.” It suggested that the huge racial disparity in the numbers of black children suspended or expelled from school is their own fault. According to right-wing polemicist Heather Mac Donald, they are more likely to misbehave.

But there’s ample evidence that African-American pupils are more severely punished than whites for similar infractions, so it’s also due to teachers’ and staff members’ behavior.

When a kid acts out at school, it’s because something is wrong. We could do so much more to help our at-risk youth to thrive at school -- through more early childhood education, more school counseling support, more mental health services and more tutors. We need more awareness of the ways race impacts everyone’s behavior and perceptions.

A safe and nurturing learning environment should indeed be considered a civil right for all. And we’ve got a long way to go before that’s true for African-American students in Madison.

Catherine Jagoe, Madison

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