Recent research has found a disparity between the way minority students and white students are disciplined. Organized by the Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative, the report found that ethnic and disabled students are disproportionately suspended from schools compared to white students. The practice has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Not only were minority and disabled students disproportionately disciplined, the reports found that ethnic girls and LGBT students were also disproportionately disciplined. Black students were 1.78 times more likely to be suspended from school as a disciplinary action than whites. Latino students experienced a greater disparity, being 2.23 times more likely to get suspended from school than whites.

Shockingly, black male students with disabilities were more frequently suspended than healthy black males at 36 percent from 2009 to 2010. Although there has been some disparity for some time, that disparity has vastly increased since the 1970s. Six percent of whites and 12 percent of blacks were suspended from school during the 1972 – 1973 school year. For the 2009 – 2010 school year, seven percent of whites were suspended while the rate for black students was 24 percent.

But are minority students just misbehaving more? The collaborative says no: “Several studies indicate . . . that racial disparities are not sufficiently explained by the theory that black or other minority students are simply misbehaving more.” Rather, there are other factors leading to this discipline disparity: classroom management, faculty diversity, administrative processes, and school climate.

The rampant nature of this over-disciplining has created some negative effects to the learning of minority and disabled students. The research indicated that high rates of suspension led to academic disengagement, lowered achievement, and increased the risk of dropping out and getting trapped in the justice system. These factors prompted the Obama Administration to address school discipline.

The guidance imposed by the White House said that “schools . . . may be legally accountable for the disparate impact of their actions on different races.” To combat the problem and effects of discipline disparity, the administration kicked off the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative aimed at providing mentorship and guidance to black students.

“School districts have just been put on notice and now we’re showing them there’s real research to show that there are alternatives to frequent use of suspension that will not just reduce suspensions but also reduce racial disparities,” said Dan Losen of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies.

There is optimism among advocates that this problem will be properly addressed and rectified over time. Schools are currently cheapening the learning experience for kids by resorting to such dismissive disciplinary actions.

“We need to pay close attention not only to the fact that suspension and expulsion are overused but that they affect certain groups much more than others,” said collaborative director and Indiana University professor Russell J. Skiba.

Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.