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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Opportunities Suspended: The Devastating Consequences of Zero Tolerance and School Discipline

  • Author(s): The Civil Rights Project
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-SA' version 3.0 license

The authors used data from the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), federal biennial K-12 student suspension data from 2009-2010, to analyze and compare rates of suspension for nearly half of the nation’s school districts, broken down by race and ethnicity. For each of the nearly 7,000 districts and each of the 50 states, they further examined differences in suspension by comparing the rates of students with disabilities with their non-disabled peers. Additionally, the authors analyzed data on the extent to which students are repeatedly suspended in the same school year. They also highlighted the highest suspending districts for each racial group and disaggregated data on the nation’s largest districts, with an added analysis of gender disparities as they intersect with race and disability status. National level findings show that 17% of Black school children in K-12 grades were suspended at least once and that after combining racial groups, 13% of students with disabilities were suspended. At the state level, Black students had the highest suspension rate in most states; however White students had the highest rate in Montana. At the district level, male students of color with disabilities had suspension rates higher than 33% in some of the largest districts. Authors make recommendations to different constituents, suggesting that policymakers make classroom management part of teacher evaluations, educators seek changes to school policies where suspension rates are high and researchers conduct cost/benefit analyses of frequent use of out of school suspensions.

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