Blog: Latino Ed Beat

N.Y. School District to Stop Sharing Disciplinary Records with Colleges

Students in Syracuse, New York who fear a trip to the principal’s office might haunt them later in life no longer need to worry about it affecting their chances of getting into college. The Syracuse City School District has decided it intends to stop sharing student disciplinary records with colleges. 

Superintendent Sharon Contreras introduced a measure in October that would ban district employees from sharing disciplinary records that might further disadvantage students of color, Julie McMahon reports for Syracuse Media Group. The school board will cast their votes on the proposal at its next Dec. 9 meeting.

“How many times should a student pay? You make a mistake when you’re a ninth grader, and it hurts you when you are applying to college? That’s just not fair,” the superintendent told the school board.

Studies have shown black and Latino students are punished at higher rates — and more harshly – than their white peers in school districts across the United States. Last year, the state attorney general’s office found Syracuse, a minority-majority district, had one of the highest suspension rates in the country and noted the racial disparities in the district’s discipline practices. 

The district was warned that “suspensions, especially for minor misconduct, can stunt individual student progress and damage the school climate for all students,” James Mulder writes

And long-term, it could affect students’ chances of getting accepted to college.

According to a recent survey by The Center for Community Alternatives, 46 percent of colleges ask for information on disciplinary records on their applications, and 27 percent collect it from the Common Application, a generic college application that more than 600 schools accept. Casey Quinlan of ThinkProgress reports that only 27 percent of 408 colleges and universities responded in the survey that they did not use discipline information in their admissions process.

“We are making a statement that we believe it is wrong that the universities ask this question when they will not disclose how they use the information when they have two students with equal credentials,” Contreras said.

The Syracuse school board questioned whether the practice was legal, and it is — if students give their schools permission to share the information, which applications ask them to do, the report’s co-author Marsha Weissman told McMahon.

And even if a history of disciplinary incidents won’t affect their chances of getting accepted, the question could serve as a deterrent to students who would rather not finish the application than disclose the information, she said. Weissman argues that student disciplinary records are “useless” to colleges anyway, since disciplinary practices vary from state to state, district to district and even teacher to teacher.