By Saundra Weathers Hillsborough County PUBLISHED 7:26 AM ET Jul. 02, 2021 on Spectrum News – Bay News 9
All summer long our Justice for All segments will highlight people doing the work in their communities to directly impact racial disparities.
What You Need To Know
Researchers want to hear from Black middle and high school students who have had two suspensions or more suspensions
USF Department of Education Professor Dr. Brenda Walker is the lead on the research study
LINK: Project Rises
More Justice for All headlines
It’s all part of our summer of solutions and in this week’s Justice for all we’re taking another look at student discipline numbers based on race and how researchers at USF are using a research study to try and get to the bottom of those glaring disparities.
USF Department of Education Professor Dr. Brenda Walker is the lead on the research study – a study that she said is vital if schools want to see real change.
“One of the biggest disparities is among the suspension rates. And as it turns out African American students are suspended much more disproportionally than any other racial group,” Dr. Walker said.
Last year we told you about the dramatic differences in discipline numbers for Black students in Pinellas County when compared to other races. We also showed you the connection of those student discipline numbers to the school to prison pipeline.
In a town hall meeting this week Hillsborough County school board member Karen Perez said it is an issue in their district too.
During that same town hall meeting USF researchers said they plan to get to the bottom of the cause and cure of those discipline disparities with their study called RISES, or Racism In School Exclusionary Suspensions. And they’re using an approach we’ve heard a lot about lately.
“I think many times us researchers went about it the wrong way in terms of looking at the issue of suspensions. Many times it was looked at from a deficit lens like something’s wrong with the student, something’s wrong with the family,” Dr. Walker said. “That’s not our approach. We’re looking at it through critical race theory and we said let’s look at it through a strength base. Let’s look at African American families and student strength to approach the problem.”
Researchers want to hear from Black middle and high school students who have had two suspensions or more suspensions over the past two school years. Parents and guardians are also encouraged to participate. Participants remain anonymous.
Researchers plan to publish the results of the study and share them with the community, students and school officials.
“Our hope is that there will be recommendations in there for all of us,” said Dr. Williams. “So in other words, we’re not just looking at out of school suspensions and blaming schools. Yes, we want to hold schools accountable. Yes, we want to hold communities accountable. We also want to hold our families accountable.”
Researchers believe participating could impact students across the country.
As an added incentive those who participate will receive a $25 gift card for every portion of the survey they complete. For more information, visit https://www.projectrises.org