Racial Disparities in Main Line School Districts:
Numerous, verified reports throughout the United States indicate that racial disparity in school discipline practices remains significant - and the Main Line is no exception. Specifically, data from the affluent, high-achieving suburban Philadelphia school districts confirms national trends pointing out a prevalent practice of “racially disproportionate discipline.” Coupled with alarmingly low placement of Black students in advanced courses and gifted programs across the Main Line, racial bias - implicit and explicit - continues as a serious problem in area school districts. Given the rise in racist incidents in schools and public spaces, area districts would do well to take pro-active measures in order to stem growing (and long-standing) racial disparities.
The most recent Civil Rights Data Collection from the U.S. Department of Education revealed:
In Lower Merion (spending $25,438 per pupil), 7.5% students are Black, while 33.6% of the students receiving Out-of-School Suspensions are Black. Black students comprise just 0.5% of those enrolled in Calculus and 3.9% in the gifted program.
In Radnor ($20,920 per pupil), 5% students are Black, while 28.1% of the students receiving Out-of-School Suspensions are Black. A more proportionate 4.2% of students enrolled in Calculus are Black, but only 0.7% of students in the gifted program are Black.
In Tredyffrin-Easttown ($17,009 per pupil), 3% students are Black, while 25.3% of the students receiving Out-of-School Suspensions are Black. Meanwhile, 1.2% of students enrolled in Calculus and just 0.8% in the gifted program are Black.
In Great Valley ($18,063 per pupil), 2.2% students are Black, while 5.3% of the students receiving Out-of-School Suspensions are Black. The Calculus enrollment is proportionate to the student enrollment at 2.3%, but gifted enrollment is 0.7% Black.
In Haverford ($15,758 per pupil), 4.4% students are Black, while 17.6% of the students receiving Out-of-School Suspensions are Black. 2.2% of students enrolled in Calculus, but only 1.8% in the gifted program are Black.
In Upper Merion ($18,349 per pupil), 10.5% students are Black, while 33.3% of the students receiving Out-of-school suspensions are Black. Meanwhile, only 3.3% of students enrolled in Calculus are Black, while 7.4% enrolled in the gifted program are Black.
We have just begun to compile student experiences to put real stories behind the statistics. Among the interviewees, we have found glaring examples of racially disproportionate disciplinary actions, taking a long-term toll on students. So far, the students (all graduating seniors) who spoke to their peers working on this report have been very open and frank in sharing often painful encounters going back as far as elementary school, or as recently as last semester. The student experiences, reinforced by the data, show that racial bias is not an isolated incident, but in many cases, part of an ongoing experience that has impacted academic performance, social-emotional coping, extracurricular opportunities and prospects for future college and career plans.