SACRAMENTO – In a scathing new report, prominent education researchers from San Diego State University (SDSU) and UCLA have identified Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) as the number one suspension district for Black males in the state of California — suspending one out of every five Black boys.
This dubious honor is further worsened by the fact that the district suspends more Black males than districts that enroll far more Black male students such as Oakland Unified, San Diego Unified, and Long Beach Unified. As an example, in 2016-2017, SCUSD’s total suspensions of Black males even exceeded those of Los Angeles Unified which enrolls nearly seven times more Black male students than the district.
The report was written by professors Luke Wood and Frank Harris from San Diego State University and Tyrone Howard from UCLA. They are among the leading scholars in the nation on Black boys and men in education. These findings are among a sampling of results that led the report “The Capitol of Suspensions: Examining the Racial Exclusion of Black Males in Sacramento County.”
The report, commissioned by the Greater Sacramento NAACP, names four districts in Sacramento County as being among the top 20 suspension districts for Black males in the California, they included: SCUSD (No. 1), Elk Grove Unified (No. 3), Twin Rivers Unified (No. 11), and San Juan Unified (No. 18).
These data are further reinforced by the fact that Sacramento County suspends Black boys in kindergarten through third grade at a rate that is 9.9 times higher than the statewide average.
“At that age, we are talking about children who are experiencing harm,” Wood stated.
“We are talking about young Black kids who are being targeted by teachers in the same way that the Black community can be targeted by police officers,” he added.
Because of the data, the group has dubbed Sacramento County as “the Capitol of Suspensions.”
“To no fault of their own, Black boys continue to be disadvantaged and disenfranchised in California’s public schools and Sacramento is ground zero. Educational leaders should view this report and the data presented as a clarion call to do what’s right and necessary to serve Black boys equitably and responsibly” said professor Harris.
While the report does not detail the reasons why the suspensions are occurring, the report authors suggest that these patterns are part of the ongoing racism faced by Black boys and young men in society.
“No other group of students encounters these discriminatory and often hostile circumstances in their effort to learn,” said professor Howard.
He argues that “from a very young age, far too many Black boys and young men are being told, in effect, to get out, and are excluded from the school and classroom.”
Howard, who is a co-author on the report, leads a prominent center at UCLA called the Black Male Institute that is dedicating to improving the educational experiences and life
chances of Black males.
Part of a greater effort to address the concerns is the Greater Sacramento NAACP, who commissioned the report. Branch president Betty Williams noted that the report is part of a larger effort to highlight exclusionary practices in education which will include a series of town halls.
“We have entered a time when historic, racist, federal policy has cunningly morphed into implementing new ways to perpetuate the historic, racialized marginalization of our Black and Brown community, even at the local levels,” Ms. Williams said.
“Our systems of education are perfectly primed to deliver these egregious, hidden and sometimes unconscious, punitive responses to include our youngest children,” she added.
Is My Child’s School on the List?
Beyond identifying school districts in need of improvement, the report also highlights schools within these districts that have high rates of suspension. The report provides a listing of 44 schools in the county that have suspension rates of 30 percent or higher for Black males.
Topping out the list is the Success Academy, which suspended nearly two-thirds of the Black boys and young men in 2016-2017. Some of the other notable schools on the list include: Rio Linda High School, Hiram Johnson High, Foothill High, Samuel Jackman Middle, Encina Preparatory High, Natomas Middle, and St. Hope Public School.
“Black minds will never matter until Black lives matter,” said professor Wood.
“For every Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, there are thousands of Trayvon’s, Michael’s, and Eric’s in our classrooms every day. We are seeing the manifestation of what occurs in policing in the classroom — our young boys are being criminalized and undervalued,” he added.
When asked about how parents should respond, professor Harris noted: “Every parent has the responsibility to protect their child from hostile environments and some schools in the county represent those environments. Every parent should know whether their child’s school is on the list. And, if it is — protect your child the best you known how — don’t let them become a statistic.”