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Suspensions More Likely For Minorities, Students With Disabilities

LOS ANGELES — A new report released by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles found that 17% of African American students nationwide received an out-of-school suspension while about 5% of White students were suspended.

The federal government suspension data from the 2009-10 school year for grades K-12 analyzed in the report covered about 85% of the nation’s public school students. The suspension rate for Latinos was 7%, while the rate for students with disabilities was 13% — approximately twice the rate of their non-disabled peers.

The report, “Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion From School,” also found that in 200 of the 7,000 districts analyzed, 20% or more of the total enrolled students were suspended from school at least once.  

For all students with disabilities, regardless of race, over 400 district suspended 25% or more of these students. Black students with disabilities were most at risk for out-of-school suspension with an alarming 25% national average for all districts in the sample.

“The frequent use of out-of-school suspension results in increased dropout rates and heightened risk of youth winding up in the juvenile justice system,” stated the study’s lead author Daniel J. Losen. “We know that schools can support teachers and improve learning environments for children without forcing so many students to lose valuable days of instruction. The data also show that numerous school districts are not suspending large numbers of children from any racial group. In contrast, the incredibly high numbers of students barred from school, often for the most minor infractions, defies common sense and reveals patterns of school exclusion along the lines of race and disability status that must be rejected by all members of the public school community.”

The report also reviews the research on alternatives to out-of-school suspension and discusses numerous ways to respond to misbehavior that would children both safe and in school.

“This important study confirms an unfortunate reality — minority students face the brunt of school-based discipline,” said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project. “This has to end, and the report provides thoughtful guidance to help us reach that goal.”

The recommendations in the report are directed to:

Parents: Bring large racial, gender and disability disparities to the attention of local and state school boards

Federal and state governments: Provide greater support for research on evidence-based and promising interventions that will reduce the use of suspensions and other harsh disciplinary measures

Educators: Use disaggregated discipline data to guide and evaluate reform efforts

Media: Question the justification and research basis behind discipline policies that keep large number of children out of school.

Read the press release.

Read the report.

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