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Minorities Get Harsher Discipline in U.S. Schools, Survey Shows

March 6 (Bloomberg) -- Black and Hispanic schoolchildren are more likely to be disciplined than white peers and are taught by lower-paid and less experienced teachers, according to federal data being released today for the first time.

Black children made up 18 percent of students in a survey of U.S. schools while accounting for 35 percent of those suspended once, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Black students are more than 3 1/2 times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white classmates, the survey showed.

“The undeniable truth is that the everyday educational experience for too many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a telephone briefing with reporters. “It is our collective duty to change that.”

The Education Department is releasing the information, the second of a two-part study, before an audience of civil rights and education groups at Howard University in Washington today. Its first report last year showed that blacks and Hispanics have less access to rigorous classes such as calculus.

The “historic” data in today’s report will give schools, parents and others ammunition to fight inequities in education, Duncan said. He cautioned against reaching the conclusion that schools were discriminating against students and urged officials to come up with ways to address the disparities.

School-Related Arrests

Teachers serving elementary schools with the most black and Hispanic students were paid an average of $51,714 a year, $2,251 less than teachers at schools with the lowest enrollment of children from those minority groups, the survey showed. In New York City, the disparity was $8,222 and in Philadelphia, $14,699.

Lower-paid teachers tend to be younger and less experienced, Duncan said.

More than 70 percent of students involved in school-related arrests or referrals to law enforcement were Hispanic or black, the survey also found.

Students with disabilities were more than twice as likely to be suspended than their non-disabled peers and represented 69 percent of those who are subject to physical restraint, the Education Department said.

The data, available down to the individual school level, was collected from more than 72,000 schools serving 85 percent of students in the 2009-2010 school year.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Hechinger in Boston at jhechinger@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net

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