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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Suspended Education in California


The Civil Rights Project has been examining out-of-school suspensions since 1999 due to concerns about the frequency of suspensions, observed racial disparities in their systemic use and the possible negative impact, especially for children of color.  Most important, a robust study of school discipline by the Council of State Governments tracked every middle school student in Texas over 6 years and has helped educators crystalize what the evidence has always suggested: that the frequent use of out-of-school suspensions has no academic benefits, is strongly associated with low achievement, a heightened risk for dropping out and a greater likelihood of juvenile justice involvement.  If suspending a student out-of-school for minor infractions is a counterproductive educational response, logic dictates that it should be reserved as a measure of last resort. Unfortunately, education policy makers and parents are not fully aware of just how many students are at risk for being suspended.For the first time, this report and companion spreadsheet covering nearly 500 districts reveals to the public the unusually high levels of risk for suspension as well as the stark differences in discipline when these risks are presented by race, gender and disability status. The alarming findings suggest not only a hidden crisis for many historically disadvantaged subgroups in too many districts but also a widespread need to reform discipline policy for California’s public schools.

Data released from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the US Department of Education revealed that more than 400,000 students were suspended out-of-school at least one time during the 2009-10 school year in California.  That’s enough students suspended out-of-school to fill every seat in all the professional baseball and football stadiums in the state, with no guarantee of any adult supervision.  OCR collected data from districts on the number of students who were suspended just once during the year and the number suspended more than once. The analysis in this report combined these two mutually exclusive categories in order to report the number of students suspended one or more times as a percentage of their total enrollment. We describe this percentage throughout this report as the “risk” for suspension...

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