Hispanics and African-Americans are three times more likely than whites to be suspended or expelled, says a new Education Department study. Is discipline being applied fairly in US schools?

More than 70 percent of students involved in school-related arrests or cases referred to law enforcement were Hispanic or African-American, according to an Education Department report that raises questions about whether students of all races are disciplined evenhandedly in America’s schools.

Black students are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended or expelled, according to an early snapshot of the report released to reporters. The findings come from a national collection of civil rights data from 2009-10 of more than 72,000 schools serving 85 percent of the nation.

The Education Department said it would release more details Tuesday.

“The sad fact is that minority students across America face much harsher discipline than non-minorities, even within the same school,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters.

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