School discipline and American Indian students

Washington County school administrators made headlines this week when they asked an American Indian student to cut his mohawk, a hairstyle that is part of the 7-year-old’s culture as a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians. The administrators later backed down from the request. The incident in Southern Utah, however, is emblematic of a larger school discipline problem in Utah, which researchers at the U’s S.J. Quinney College of Law’s Public Policy Clinic studied earlier this year. The research revealed that school disciplinary actions handed down to students at Utah public schools disproportionately impacts American Indian children over all other ethnicities enrolled in the state’s public education system. Researcher and law student Vanessa Walsh found that although American Indian students comprise the smallest student demographic in Utah, they have the largest percentage of students referred to law enforcement and arrested at schools. This means such students often become part of the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which is a system of practices by school and law enforcement that steer schoolchildren out of the classroom and into the juvenile justice system. Walsh is available to talk about her research. A summit to delve further into this topic is planned at the law school later this fall.
Phone: 801-910-1503 | Email: vanessa.walsh@law.utah.edu