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Media advisory: KU professors can discuss race, school discipline after Dallas-area clock arrest

Thursday, September 17, 2015

LAWRENCE — A suburban Dallas high school student was handcuffed and detained, but he won't face formal charges after bringing a homemade clock to school on suspicion it was a hoax bomb that created a threat.

President Barack Obama and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sent messages of support to the 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed — who was identified as Muslim in national news reports — for his work on creating the clock himself.

Two University of Kansas professors who study the effects of school discipline and how it influences minority students are available to discuss their research in relation to Ahmed Mohamed's initial arrest.

Don Haider-Markel, professor and chairman of the KU Department of Political Science, is available to discuss his research on race and perception of school discipline and its possible implications for students to be involved in civic life as adults.

A U.S. Department of Education report earlier this year has found black students are three times more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled.

"Schools teach young people about democracy and being a citizen directly, but schools, through their treatment of students, also teach students how the government views them as citizens," Haider-Markel said. "So students who do not perceive fair treatment might take away the message that the government will not be fair or treat everyone equally."

Haider-Markel was co-author of the study "Race, Gender and Symbolic Representation in American Schools," presented earlier this month at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The researchers using survey data found minority students in schools with more black teachers have more positive attitudes and higher perceptions of fairness in school discipline, and white students who attend schools with a higher number of minority teachers are more likely to believe discipline from school officials is fair as well.

To schedule an interview with Haider-Markel, contact George Diepenbrock at 785-864-8853 or gdiepenbrock@ku.edu.

Dorothy Hines-Datiri, assistant professor of multicultural education, can comment on discipline disparities for students of color, challenges of implementing school discipline policies, police officers in schools and preventing school dropouts in urban districts.

“This case speaks to how discipline policies and practices are shaped by the intersection of race, gender and identity for students of color. This incident raises broader questions about the academic and emotional consequences of implicit bias and stereotypes in the disciplinary process, and how creativity is not seen as intellectually valuable, but as a form of exclusion,” Hines-Datiri said. “Additionally, how schools can serve as negative spaces for first encounters that children have with police when they are perceived as aggressive and threatening.”

Hines-Datiri has researched and published on racial and gender disproportionality in school discipline for students from historically marginalized backgrounds, and police presence in schools. She has spent much of her career working with dropout prevention and recovery programs, and said disciplinary problems are a common cause students cite as their reason for dropping out.

To schedule an interview with Hines-Datiri, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860 or mkrings@ku.edu.


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