Suspensions Are Higher for Disabled Students, Federal Data
By MOTOKO RICH
Published: August 7, 2012
Students with disabilities are almost twice as likely to
be suspended from school as nondisabled students, with the
highest rates among black children with disabilities.
According to a new analysis of Department of Education
data, 13 percent of disabled students in kindergarten
through 12th grade were suspended during the 2009-10
school year, compared with 7 percent of students without
disabilities. Among black children with disabilities,
which included those with learning difficulties, the rate
was much higher: one out of every four was suspended at
least once that school year.
The Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the University of
California, Los Angeles, conducted the study of data from
the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights,
which originally released the raw statistics in March.
Policy makers and civil rights leaders worry about
out-of-school suspensions because they often presage
dropouts and can raise a child's risk of future
incarceration. Districts with high suspension rates also
tend to be correlated with lower student achievement as
measured by test scores.
The analysis, which reviewed data at the state and
district levels, found that in 10 states, including
California, Connecticut, Delaware and Illinois, more than
a quarter of black students with disabilities were
suspended in 2009-10. In Illinois, the rate was close to
42 percent, compared with about 8 percent for white
students. New York and Florida were not included because
of problems with their data.
"That's a very disturbing pattern because kids with
disabilities are supposed to be getting additional
supports and counseling," said Daniel J. Losen, senior
education law and policy associate with the U.C.L.A. Civil
Rights Project and an author of the report. "Kids with
disabilities make up a very large proportion of the kids
who are in the juvenile justice system, so it's a very,
very disturbing finding."
In some districts, black male students with disabilities
were suspended at a strikingly high rate. In Henrico
County Public Schools in Virginia, for example, the
report's authors found that close to 92 percent of all
black males with disabilities had been suspended one or
more times during 2009-10, compared with just over 44
percent of white males with disabilities. In Memphis, a
majority black district, nearly 53 percent of all black
males with disabilities were suspended that year.
Black students in general were more likely to be suspended
than any other racial group, although American Indians and
Latinos were also suspended at much higher rates than
whites. Among black students, one in six was suspended at
least once in 2009-10, compared with one in 13 American
Indians, one in 14 Latinos, and one in 20 whites.
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