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Dear Commons Community,
According to a study by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of California, Los Angeles, nearly 3.5 million public school students were suspended out of school at least once in 2011-12. That is more than one student suspended for every public school teacher in America. This means that more students were suspended in grades K-12 than were enrolled as high school seniors. As stated in the study, if we ignore the discipline gap, we will be unable to close the achievement gap. Of the 3.5 million students who were suspended in 2011-12, 1.55 million were suspended at least twice. Given that the average suspension is conservatively put at 3.5 days, we estimate that U.S. public school children lost nearly 18 million days of instruction in just one school year because of exclusionary discipline.
Suspension rates typically are three to five times higher at the secondary level than at the elementary level, as illustrated in the figure above. Furthermore, the actual size of the racial gap, such as that between Blacks and Whites, is much greater at the secondary level.
The national summary of suspension rate trends for grades K-12 indicates that these rates increased sharply from the early 1970s to the early 2000s, and then more gradually, until they leveled off in the most recent three-year period. We conclude that in this recent period, no real progress was made in reducing suspension rates for grades K-12.
After many years of widening, the gap in suspension rates between Blacks and Whites and between Latinos and Whites narrowed slightly in the most recent time period—that is, the 2009-10 and 2011- 12 school years. The gap narrowed, however, only because of the increase in the White suspension rate. Specifically, 16% of Blacks and 7% of Latinos were suspended in both years, while rates for Whites rose from 4% to 5%.
Despite the persistence of deeply disturbing disparities, the good news is that we estimate a slight reduction nationally in suspension rates for Blacks, Latinos, and Whites at the secondary level, along with a small narrowing of the racial discipline gap.
The report’s authors analyzed 2011-12 discipline data from every school and district in the country. The U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights issued the data last year. In the time period covered, 10.1 percent of secondary students and 2.6 percent of elementary students were suspended, the authors found.