Thousands of teens are caught in this downward whirlpool every year:
As in previous years, in 2016-17, black students were overrepresented in every category of exclusionary discipline. Statewide, black students were 4.3 times more likely to be given a short-term suspension than their white classmates, and 3.4 times more likely to be given a long-term suspension. In 17 school districts, the likelihood that black students would be given a short-term suspension as compared to their white peers was even higher than the statewide average.
Let those numbers sink in, especially considering how widespread this problem is. That fact undercuts the "default" conservative claim that this is a gang problem, and not a systemic racism issue. Every step of the way, from elementary school through whatever grade of high school they can climb up to, and then with their first brush with the court system, black males are dealt with as if they were a public health threat, while their white counterparts are given "second chances" over and over (and over) again. If you haven't witnessed this inequality, you haven't been looking. I can't say it better than this:
Unfortunately, these disparities are not new. Year after year, black students are suspended at higher rates than their white peers. Even as suspensions overall have come down, the racial disproportionality persists and suspension continues to have a discriminatory and harmful impact on students of color. Research has shown that the higher rates of suspension for black students cannot be attributed to more frequent or more serious misbehavior by these students.
Instead, this racial disproportionality is more likely explained by implicit racial biases of decision-makers, institutional and structural racism, and explicit discrimination against people of color.
Above I mentioned their first brush with the court system, which may lead you to conclude that had nothing to do with the schools, and was just them out there committing crimes of one sort or another. Well, here's what may be the direct connection in that pipeline:
Since 1996, there has been a significant increase in the number of law enforcement officers, often called School Resource Officers or SROs, patrolling public schools in North Carolina. In almost all schools, SROs are employed by local law enforcement agencies and primarily accountable to those agencies. In the vast majority of school districts, there are no school-based limitations on whether and when SROs may interrogate, search, arrest, or file complaints against students.
Similarly, while schools are required to collect and report data on the use of suspension and expulsion, they are not required to do the same for school-based arrests or court referrals.
In our zest to make schools safer in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, we may be adding fuel to another fire of injustice, by putting even more of these SROs in the hallways of our public schools. You can't fix a problem by worsening another one, and you shouldn't even try.