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A Call to Action: NASP's Position Statement on Racial and Ethnic Disproportionality in Education

By Elizabeth Rose A'vant & Pricilla Kucer

Schools across the United States are becoming more diverse as they mirror the increasing diversity of our population. With changing demographics, great concern exists regarding the significant overrepresentation of culturally and linguistically diverse students' rates of suspension, expulsion, and placement into special education programs. The link between disruptive students, out-of-school suspension, expulsion, and low academic performance is clear; if students are not in school, they simply cannot learn. If students do not have access to effective curricula and instruction, they fall behind academically. These negative outcomes are perpetuated by inappropriate special education referrals, identification, and placements into programs where students are often subjected to lower expectations, denial of access to effective curricula, and less time in regular educational settings. As students are pushed out of regular educational environments (e.g., classrooms and schools), the disconnection to school strengthens and more often than not, these students drop out. The research between school dropout and delinquency is well documented. The school-to-prison-pipeline is a grave reality for far too many racially and ethnically diverse students, especially Black/African American males, in schools across our nation. In response to this alarming trend, the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has developed a new position statement, “Racial and Ethnic Disproportionality in Education,” with recommendations for promising practices to address this critical issue (read the position paper in this issue of Communiqué).

Educators, policy makers, and all who are concerned with the success of our nation must collectively put forth efforts to dismantle the school-to-prison-pipeline. As a first step, we need to individually and collectively examine how we may or may not be contributing to and maintaining this damaging path that leads students down the school-to-prison pipeline. School psychologists are in a unique position to support students, families, and educators by working to change practices that produce inequitable learning opportunities and negative educational outcomes. In supporting schools, it is important for us to be actively visible and provide administrators with guidance in collecting and disaggregating data that demonstrate disparities in disciplinary practices or in special education identification and placement. As partners in education, we can assist schools in identifying and delivering staff training on culturally responsive academic and behavioral interventions within multitiered systems of support. As school psychologists, we can work with families and schools in promoting and implementing social–emotional programs that enhance students' mental health to thwart the school-to-prison pipeline.

Call to Action

School psychologists are advocates who have a professional and ethical obligation to counteract racial and ethnic disproportionality in education. While systematic reform is required to eradicate the ills impacting schools across the nation, we can make a difference in changing the negative outcome trajectory for all students, especially those from historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups. We ask that all NASP members read the new position statement, “Racial and Ethnic Disproportionality in Education” and consider: What can I do and how can I make a difference? We ask for your assistance in becoming change agents by being actively involved in determining how racially and ethnically diverse students in your schools are identified and provided with interventions. We ask for your support in raising awareness and by advocating for systematic changes that promote educational equality for all students.

Your actions will further the effort to eliminate racial and ethnic disproportionality in education. Please join us in “fighting the battle to eliminate the opportunity gap that is the root of the achievement gap” (Schott, 2012, p. 2) and that fosters the school-to-prison pipeline. Be sure to attend the panel discussion, “Racial and Ethnic Disproportionality in Education: Addressing the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” presented by the position statement writing group at the 2014 NASP convention on Thursday, February 20, 2013 from 11:50 a.m. to 12:50 p.m. (check the final program for room location).


National Association of School Psychologists. (2013). Racial and ethnic disproportionality in Education [Position statement]. Bethesda, MD: Author. Retrieved from http://www.nasponline.org/about_nasp/positionpapers/Racial_Ethnic_Disproportionality.pdf

Schott Foundation for Public Education. (2012). The urgency is now: The Schott 50-state report on public education and black males 2012. Retrieved from http://www.schottfoundation.org

Elizabeth Rose A'Vant is a practitioner in the Providence (RI) Public School District. She is cochair of the African American Subcommittee of the NASP Multicultural Affairs Committee. Priscilla Kucer, NCSP, is a school psychologist in Orlando, Florida.