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Letter: Racism is apparent in school suspension data

Published April 5, 2014 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In a recent column, Leonard Pitts Jr. pointed to some startling national trends in our current educational system, based on analysis of the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights data ("Waiting for excuses for the inexcusable," Opinion, March 26). But it is important to realize that this national issue is very much a Utah issue as well.

The OCR data show that minorities are disproportionately disciplined in schools; for example, while African American students make up 18 percent of overall enrollment nationally, they represent 46 percent of out-of-school suspensions. This disparity is mirrored in Utah.

In the San Juan school district, American Indian/Alaska native students equal 47.7 percent of enrollment, but account for 78.2 percent of out-of-school suspensions. Even more concerning, every student expelled was American Indian/Alaska native. Salt Lake City School District's discipline rate of in-school suspensions of native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders is twice the enrollment rate and it's more than three times for African American students.

The consequences are far-reaching, affecting our society in a multitude of ways, from the economic sector to incarceration rates. Now that we have this tool in our hands, we need to encourage our legislators to take a hard look at this data and work toward the creation of a better education system in Utah that will benefit everyone in the long run.

Jade Fisher

Salt Lake City