Oregon’s Black and Indigenous Kids Are Disciplined at Twice the Rate of Their White Classmates

Portland Public Schools has drastic discipline gaps between white and Black children, especially in middle schools.

Life in Portland for Black and white people is overwhelmingly different. In the coming weeks, WW will explore these contrasting realities—the inequities that have molded the Black experience in this city and state. This week, we look at discipline rates.

A 2018-19 Oregon Department of Education report grading public schools indicates how often Black Oregonians are viewed as troublemakers before they reach adulthood—they are disciplined at twice the rate of their white peers.

The report, released in May 2019, stated that Black students had the second-most incident reports: 12.6%. American Indian/Alaska Native students were slightly higher at 12.8%. White students accounted for only 6% of incident reports.

Portland Public Schools has even more drastic discipline gaps between white and Black children, especially in middle schools.

A 2018-19 PPS report says Black students accounted for 46.1% of all the major discipline incidents reported, including expulsions and out-of-school suspensions in PPS middle schools, while white students made up 5.2%.

Disciplinary actions can have a ripple effect on other aspects of students' lives, such as their likelihood of dropping out of school, or worse.

"Discipline practices (suspensions and expulsions) are strongly linked to youth involvement in the juvenile justice system and greater likelihood of dropping out of school," says a Coalition of Communities of Color report.

Statistics bear that out: The high school dropout rate for Black students between 2017 and 2018 was 5.9%, but only 3.3% for white students, according to the state report.

This reporting has been funded in part by a grant from the Jackson Foundation. See more Black and White in Oregon stories here.

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