Study Shows Black Kids Get Arrested While White Kids Get Help

Cierra Bailey
New sociological study shows that behavioral problems are treated differently in the U.S. school systems based on students' race.

America’s race problem doesn’t begin and end with police brutality, the issue at hand stems much deeper down to the young Black minds being marginalized within the school systems throughout the country.

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A new study shows that Black students with behavioral problems are more likely to receive criminalized discipline in schools in comparison to their White counterparts who more commonly receive medical intervention.

“White kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem, Black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn,” said David Ramey, an assistant professor of sociology and criminology at Penn State who conducted the study.

Ramey’s study was published in the Sociology of Education. His findings indicate that schools with higher percentages of Black students are more likely to be expelled, suspended or arrested for negative behaviors and actions while the solution for White students exhibiting the same behaviors is medical or psychological treatment.

Ramey pulled data from 60,000 schools in 6,000 districts for his study, making it one of the largest on this subject thus far. He has spent several years researching the ways sociological factors affect schools’ forms of punishment.

The two distinct disciplinary styles that Ramey explores are criminalized discipline -- which revolves around penalizing the student using suspension, expulsion, etc. and medicalized discipline which uses medical attention or psychological intervention to solve a student's behavioral issues.

Needless to say, this systemic form of institutionalized racism only creates more problems. While these Black students are on suspension, they are missing out on important curriculum thus falling behind in school which results in faltering grades.

Furthermore, the emotional trauma associated with criminalized punishment increases the likelihood of dropping out of school, committing a real crime or becoming incarcerated as an adult.

According to data from, 40% of students expelled from U.S. schools each year are Black and 70% of students involved with in-school arrests are Black or Latino.

Are we seeing a common thread in our society? This “criminalization” vs. “medicalization” doesn’t only apply in the school system, but with adult situations as well.

Let’s take the case of the recent Charleston shooting when Dylann Roof, a White man, was claimed to be “mentally ill” after shooting nine innocent Black churchgoers in June.

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Or we can take it even further back to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 when the mental stability of shooter Adam Lanza – also White – was immediately taken into account after he shot a bunch of kids and teachers in cold blood.

Meanwhile, when a Black person commits a crime of any capacity – be it petty or heinous – they are commonly referred to as “thugs” and “menaces.” They are reported as having a “history” with criminal activity or gang affiliation.

Even the extensive list of unarmed Black men and women who have been recently killed by law enforcement have had their “troubled past,” “fatherless childhoods” and “uncooperative” demeanors come in to play as if to justify the excessive force and violence used against them.   

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As if the hypocrisy in America as it relates to race relations wasn’t evident enough, we can now include the findings from Ramey’s study to include the U.S. school system as a key player in the disenfranchisement of African Americans.