African-American Students Face Big Disparity in How Often They're Disciplined in Multnomah County Schools

African-American students across Multnomah County are being suspended and expelled from middle and high schools at nearly 3.5 times the rate of white students, according to a report released Jan. 10 by the Multnomah County Commission on Children, Families & Community.

The report finds disparity among the treatment of Hispanic and Native American students as well—a trend that's been also been found around the country.

But the county report puts blame on teachers and administrators for what it calls "implicit bias" in the way they handle discipline involving students of color.

The study looked at six districts across the county: Centennial, David Douglas, Gresham-Barlow, Parkrose, Portland and Reynolds. All showed a disparity between the rates of discipline for white students versus all students of color. The largest gap existed for African-American students, but Native American and Latino students were also suspended and expelled more often.

The data for 2009-10 show African-American students in the Reynolds School District faced discipline at a rate 3.79 times that of white students. In Portland Public Schools, the rate was 3.5 times.

The report found Asian students were disciplined about half as often as white students. 

The report reflects a national trend—discipline rates for minority students nationwide are much higher than their white classmates. The report used data from all the school districts as well as surveys of students and teachers to do the analysis.