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Black students under fire: still more likely to get expelled

Earl Ofari Hutchinson | 4/3/2014, 6 a.m.

There are two other reasons that school officials grossly overreact to the real or perceived bad behavior of some black students. The federal Gun-Free Schools Act, passed in 1994, requires that states order their schools to kick students out for weapons possession in order to qualify for federal funds. (School officials later expanded the list of violations for student expulsion to include fighting and other violent acts.) California’s zero-tolerance school laws, for instance, mandate that a student be expelled for one year for infractions that include drug sales, robbery, assault, weapons possession and fights that cause serious physical injury. The only exception is if the student that caused the injury acted in self-defense.

The horrific stories of students wielding guns and knives on campuses and assaulting and terrorizing other students have deepened public panic that murderous youths are running amok at schools. School officials zealously enforce get-tough policies to prove that they will do whatever it takes to get rid of disruptive students. The danger is that school officials that reflexively view young blacks as violence-prone, menace-to-society thugs have turned zero-tolerance into a repressive tool that victimizes black students.

As the survey shows, the quick-trigger suspension and expulsion of black students from schools at the drop of a dime has reached down into preschools and preconditioned far too many teachers and principals to regard black children who are barely removed from the crib as classroom dangers. The end result is that the school-to-prison pipeline has become even more unyielding and socially damaging because it starts at an even earlier age. This will end only when school officials stop the racial profiling of black students, and that first and foremost now includes black children.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent MSNBC contributor. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KTYM 1460 AM Radio Los Angeles and KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson