A new study indicates students with disabilities throughout the public school system are getting suspended nearly twice as much as those without, with disabled black students being particularly disciplined.
According to the New York Times, the analysis (PDF) by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA took a look at data compiled in 10 states during the 2009-10 school year by the Department of Education, and found that more than 25 percent of black students with disabilities, ranging from kindergarteners to high school seniors, were suspended.
Overall, 13 percent of disabled students were suspended, compared to 7 percent of non-disabled students.
The study also adds that suspending more kids according to more stringent disciplinary policies doesn’t improve school safety or students’ performance after being punished.
“In fact, the research links suspensions with higher risk for retention in grade, dropping out, and involvement with the juvenile justice system, even after controlling for race, poverty, and school characteristics,” the study says.
The new study backs up findings from last November by a Colorado group, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), indicating that disabled, black and Latino students were suspended at a much higher rate than white students over the course of three-plus decades: between the 1972-73 and 2006-07 school years, black suspension rates jumped from 6 percent to 15 percent, for example, while white suspensions went from 3 percent to 5 percent.
This week’s study showed that in the 2009-10 year, only one in 20 white students was suspended, compared to one in 13 Native Americans, one in 14 Latinos, and one in six black pupils.
Earlier analyses of suspension data, like a 2001 study by the Transnational Racial Justice Initiative (TRJI), pin these kinds of results on racially-selective application of “zero-tolerance” policies.
“While zero tolerance penalties appear to be racially neutral, they can be applied in very subjective ways, influenced by racial prejudice,” the TRJI report stated. “For example, parents involved in Indian People’s Action in Missoula, Montana reported that their children were being disciplined for ‘defiance of authority’ if they didn’t look their teachers in the eye when being reprimanded, even though it is disrespectful in some Native American cultures for a young person to look directly at an elder in such an interaction.”
Other recommendations in the UCLA report for school districts include additional training for teachers; the inclusion of suspension rates in performance criteria for schools and classroom management skills in teacher assessments.