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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Are We Closing the School Discipline Gap?

  • Author(s): Losen, Daniel J.;
  • Hodson, Cheri L.;
  • Keith II, Michael A;
  • Morrison, Katrina;
  • Belway, Shakti
  • et al.

During the 2011-12 school year, nearly 3.5 million public school students were suspended out-of-school at least once. This report examines data on out-of-school suspension rates in every school district in the country and also examines on data on out-of-school suspension rates at the state and national levels. It documents disparities in the use of out-of-school suspension experienced by students with disabilities, and those from historically disadvantaged racial, ethnic, and gender subgroups. At the district level, on average more than one in every ten elementary students and at least one out of every four secondary students enrolled were suspended in 2011-12. Nationally, suspension rates are three to four times higher at the secondary level than at the elementary level. An examination of the racial and gender disparities among secondary students with disabilities shows that males, and most often Black males (33.8%), have the highest risk for suspension, followed by Latino males (23.2%). Also important to note is that Black females with disabilities are suspended at higher rates than White males with disabilities—22.5% and 16.2%, respectively. These disparities extend beyond the vast loss of instruction time experienced by students who are suspended. A school or school district’s excessive use of exclusionary discipline raises alarms because of the negative impact high suspension rates have on graduation rates, the learning environment, and rates of juvenile crime and delinquency in the larger community. Suggestions for remedies are also detailed.

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