Linking School Suspensions to …Poverty?

Posted: April 29, 2008 in Education, Our children

At least that is what Des Moines school board member Jonathan Narcisse believes as reported in the following article.

Hoover seen reflecting state in black student suspensions

By RACHAEL STERN • CO-EDITOR, HOOVER CHALLENGER

Statistics from the Iowa Department of Education released earlier this year told a story familiar to elected officials who are black: The Des Moines school district, like the state collectively, has a disproportionately high number of black student suspensions.

Hoover High School Principal Doug Wheeler wasn’t surprised by the reports, and said that the same trend is present at Hoover, one of five Des Moines high schools.

“I’m sure that our percentage of suspensions here is probably predominantly African-American. The one thing that needs to be considered is that one-fourth of our school is African-American,” Wheeler said. “That being said, I’m sure there’s still a disproportionate number of African-American suspensions.”

Des Moines school board member Jonathan Narcisse was among those immediately concerned by the outcome of the studies. Narcisse, who is black, said that high levels of poverty in Des Moines could be one of the causes of the high suspension number for black students, and said in an interview that 80 percent to 90 percent of students in the district live in poverty.

“The economic and social conditions facing African-Americans in Iowa are brutal and coming out of that brutality is a presence, a behavior, an interaction, an engagement in our schools that often leads to suspensions and expulsions,” Narcisse said, “particularly as it relates to the lack of safety and security many African-American children feel as they experience acts of bullying, acts of intimidation, acts of inter-community violence.”

Now check this out.

Narcisse gave a conflicting opinion of his views on poverty causing problems within the district in a Feb. 28 e-mail, in which he stated: “Poverty is not the reason we are failing so miserably as a district.”

In an interview, Narcisse said that he didn’t believe low income played a part in suspensions.

“If we’re saying that poor kids are more violent or disruptive, I don’t think you can draw that,” he said.

Narcisse also claimed a different statistic for students living in poverty in an article he posted online March 8 at http://www.accountabledesmoines education.com. It said that 60 percent of Des Moines students live in poverty.

[Link]

The article goes on to quote another school faculty member who not only believes in the poverty-suspension link, but goes on to add that two parents working in Black, low-income homes may not have the time to help their children with schoolwork.

I guess what tires me about that excuse (because that is what it is) is that the same explanation rarely applies to other races. Also, this explanation relies too heavily on the assumption that many of these kids are coming from a TWO-parented home.

Parents who really care about their kids will make the time to help them. That applies to everyone, regardless of economic status. This dumbing-down of poor Black people by linking bad behavior to poverty has got to stop.

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