Disciplinary inequity: exploring perceptions of discretionary student removal among assistant principals in Texas
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African American students are being excluded from the classroom in public schools at rates disproportionately higher than other student subgroups. This is being done by campus administrators using a practice known as ‘Discretionary Removal’ which allows them to remove students for disciplinary purposes. These removals are damaging to student learning and achievement, and further widen the learning gap between African American students and other races. Additionally, they have been shown to contribute to additional involvement in school disciplinary processes, an increased risk of dropping out, incarceration, and limited economic opportunity for large numbers of African Americans. In Texas public schools the implementation of certain provisions of Texas Education Code Chapter 37, namely the use of discretionary removal as a disciplinary consequence, has impacted students unequally for decades depending on their race. Current rates of removal for African American students in Texas are two-and-a-half times greater on average than any other student group. This disproportionality has been amplified by increased rates of discretionary removal overall among Texas public schools, adding yet another dimension to this complex issue. This qualitative case study attempts to demonstrate that the policies designed to help manage student behavior are not race-neutral, because the processes used to implement them are relatively arbitrary, responsive to student race and, therefore, inequitable. The value of this study lies in the interrogation of a subjective power that is widely used by school officials in Texas more often against Black students, with the assumption that schools are better when students who violate the code of conduct are removed. As we continue to develop an understanding about the racial gap in student discipline and the negative impact of student suspensions, it is imperative to evaluate the processes that drive decisions by school administrators to punish some students more harshly than others.