- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa school statistics show that black students continue to be removed from class for discipline far more often than students of other races.

The Des Moines Register reports (https://dmreg.co/1YpE5mp ) that black students accounted for roughly 5 percent of Iowa’s 506,336 students statewide last year but 18 percent of the students removed from class.

School officials are working to address the disparities, but it has proven to be a difficult problem.

Iowa City school board member Latasha DeLoach said the statistics are an embarrassment that shouldn’t continue to be a problem today.

DeLoach ran for school board this year partly because she wanted to tackle injustices like this. In Iowa City, black students account for less than 20 percent of the district’s enrollment but 53 percent of the students removed from classes for discipline.

“We should all be ashamed. It doesn’t matter what background you are,” DeLoach said. “If you care about kids in your community, you should be embarrassed.”

School districts across Iowa are working to ensure they are handling discipline fairly.

In Des Moines, the district is implementing new guidelines to help teachers and staff members interpret student behavior, so discipline is less subjective.

Des Moines officials are also training staff on different cultural backgrounds, so there’s less chance of something being misinterpreted as disrespectful or threatening.

The Iowa City district created a new diversion program, so students who are involved in fights have a chance to avoid criminal charges. Students in the program have to go through counseling and complete community service.

“We are well aware” of student discipline disparities, said Kate Callahan, director of student services at Iowa City schools, “and it’s why we’re reaching out to the community to address these issues.”

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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