Copyright 2017. Educating Children of Color. All Rights Reserved.

The Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice most recent report on juvenile arrests for the state shows that minority juveniles are 1.22 times more likely to be arrested than whites. That percentages jumps to 3.37 times when filtered for African American children. 

According to a Sentencing Project report for 2003 to 2013, racial and ethnic disparities within the juvenile justice system continue to grow nationally. Meanwhile, total arrests and the total numbers of youth in placement have fallen. The trends suggest that successful reforms by agencies such as the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice have led to fewer overall arrests – a trend that is not being shared equally among all youth. 

Minority Overrepresentation

National, state, and El Paso County school district data underscore that children of color and poverty:

  1. Do not reach the same level of academic achievement as their white peers
  2. Are more likely than white children to become involved in the juvenile justice system
  3. Have lower high school graduation rates
  4. Face a disproportionately high probability of becoming mired in the juvenile justice system

Today, more than ever in our history, we must recognize and take actions to help narrow and ultimately close the achievement gap in our schools. “We can’t wait!”

So what do we mean by disproportionately high probability and what is minority overrepresentation? In a nutshell, it means that if you visited one of our juvenile delinquency courts, you’d find that the number of children of color who appear there is out of proportion to their numbers within El Paso County.

How ethnically diverse are El Paso County’s school districts?

Rather, the data shows that the trend is benefiting white youth the most.

School Discipline:
During the 2015-2016 school year, one in every five black students was suspended from school, as compared to one in 10 Latino Students and one in 15 white students within El Paso County. (Colorado Department of Education). Analysis provided by the American Council on Education in 2011 revealed that African American males are three times more likely to be suspended than their white peers.  

Evidence exists that the use of school discipline pushes children out of school, and disproportionately those children are black or brown (The Urgency of Now, 2012). The Schott 50 State Report: The Urgency of Now sited the results of multiple studies that showed that students who have experienced at least one suspension are three times more likely to leave school before the 10th grade than students who have never been suspended.

Graduation Rates:
The statewide on-time graduation rate for the class of 2015 was 77.3 percent. Within School District 11 it was 68.5 percent.

Colorado School District 11 has the largest population of youth of any district in the 4th Judicial District, and more than twice as many students of color as any of the other school districts in the jurisdiction. The 2015 results for Colorado Springs School District 11 indicate that 43.7% of African American males and 56.6% of Latino males graduated on time (Colorado Department of Education). 

Graduation rates for the 2014-2015 school year were as follows for the District:

Native American:      66.7%
Asian:                       82.5%
African American      54.8%
Latino:                      64.4%
White:                       71.8%
Pacific Islander:         66.7%
2 or more races:        68.8%

The Achievement Gap:
Educational attainment continues to be an issue. Test results for 2016 have been released by the Colorado Department of Education, however, the information by race and ethnicity has not yet been completed.  The following tables reflect the numbers for the five most diverse school districts in the Fourth Judicial District for 2015 in English Language Arts and Math for third and tenth grade.

2015 PARCC English Language Arts

2015 PARCC Math

Criminal Justice System:
Data available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (2011) also reveal minority over-representation in the adult criminal justice system. 60% of all incarcerated adults are persons of color. Currently in the United States there are 2.3 million adults in jail or state prison. Of those incarcerated the ratio of Black inmates is 5.6 to every White inmate. The ratio of Latino inmates to White inmates is 1.8 to one. Similarly, the rate in Colorado is a ratio of 6.6 African American inmates and two Latino inmates to every White inmate.

The root of achievement disparity for every child in our community is poverty. National statistics for 2014 indicate that 10% of white, 26% of black, 12% of Asians, and 24% of Hispanic individuals experienced poverty in the United States (US Census Bureau: Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014).

Unfortunately, living in poverty is often a predictor for school failure with 22 percent of children who have lived in poverty not graduating from high school. Conversely, 94% of individuals who have never experienced poverty will graduate (Annie Casey Foundation, 2012).  The figure rises to 32 percent for students spending more than half of their childhood in poverty. The Annie Casey Foundation also reports that about 31 percent of poor African-American students and 33 percent of poor Hispanic students who did not hit the third-grade proficiency mark failed to graduate.

Child Welfare:
There are 328 children of color in foster care from El Paso County. Children of color represent  47% of our total population in out-of-home care (Caywood, 2013).

Additional resources and references

Data from the Colorado Department of Education show that children attending school in El Paso County’s 17 different school districts are 65% white, 20% Hispanic, and 6% African American. Multi-race children represent 5% of our populations, 2% are Asian, and the remaining 2% are Native American and Hawaiian or Polynesian.

And yet:

  1. African American juveniles are nearly three and a half times more likely to be arrested within El Paso County than white juveniles. Other minority groups including Hispanics are less likely to be arrested than whites, according to a report compiled in 2015 by the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. 
  2. African American students accounted for 16% and Hispanic students nearly 31% of all suspensions and expulsions from El Paso school district schools during 2015-16 according to statistics provided by the Colorado Department of Education.
  3. Children of color had lower graduation rates for the 2015-16 period than whites, but the disparity was not great. But, within our city’s largest school district – District 11 – the graduation rate for African-American students was 56% compared to a 73% graduation rate for whites and 66% for Hispanics for the 2015-16 year. (Colorado Department of Education) 
  4. When looking at academic achievement based on national standardized tests for 10th graders within El Paso County’s largest school districts, children of color fall behind their white peers by an average of 10 to 15 percentage points. But, regardless of color, test results provided by the Colorado Department of Education show that less than half of our students exceed expectations for the 10th-grade level.
  5. Poverty statistics for the state of Colorado are comparable to the national results – 10% of white children live in poverty as compared to 22% of black children and 21% of Latino children (U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 2014).

By looking at the numbers and understanding the statistics, it’s hoped that our community can work together to find solutions to eliminate minority overrepresentation within our schools and within the 4th Judicial District. Let’s take a deeper look at what the numbers are telling us.

Juvenile Justice: