Why are black kids disciplined more than whites in schools?

SEATTLE -- It’s a disturbing trend that goes back nearly 20 years in Seattle public schools: Numbers show African American students are being disciplined more often, and some say more harshly, than other kids.

The U.S. Education Department is looking into possible discrimination in the Seattle Public Schools, following up on allegations and research that white students are treated better than black students.

According to Seattle Public Schools figures, more than 13%, or 408, black high school students were suspended in 2012, while only 4%, or 228, white students were given the same punishment.

“The numbers are startling in terms of what appears to be inequity,” said James Bible of the NAACP.

Bible feels the district is openly discriminating against black students.

“It’s not just the disproportionality. It’s the belief or knowledge that people are being sanctioned differently for the same exact actions, so what we’re hoping for is equitable and equal treatment that way,” said Bible.

Friends of the Children is a nonprofit organization that mentors at-risk youth starting in kindergarten, with the goal of getting them to graduation. They say another part of this puzzle is helping African American families prioritize education in their students’ lives.

“Kids come home and they’re homeless; they can have parents who have been arrested, or family members who have died from gang violence," said program manager Edgar Masmela. "Homework at that point is very low on their priority list.

"But it’s the mentor’s job to ensure that work gets done. We’re in the schools, talking to the teachers, finding out what are the missing assignments and we’re really a preventative model to make sure that child doesn’t repeat the cycle,” said Masmela.