Suspensions more common for minority, disabled students
California Watch11 April 2012 - Original Source
By Joanna Lin
Racial minorities and students with disabilities are suspended at substantially higher rates than their white and non-disabled peers, according to an analysis of discipline data from nearly 500 California school districts. Researchers said the disparities are a civil rights issue and cause for alarm.
While 7.1 percent of all California students were suspended from school at least once during the 2009-10 school year, the rate was as high as 18 percent among blacks, 11 percent among American Indians and 13.4 percent for students with disabilities. The rate was 7 percent among Latinos and 3 percent among Asians and Pacific Islanders.
Released yesterday by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA's Civil Rights Project, the analysis is based on data school districts reported to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. The reporting districts serve about 90 percent of all students in California.
Disparities in suspension by race, gender and disability status "suggest a crisis in many of these districts," said Daniel Losen, co-author of the report and director of the center.
"In too many districts, we're no longer saving out-of-school suspension to be a measure of last resort," Losen said yesterday on a conference call with reporters. "This policy hurts kids of color most of all."
The center's analysis included only out-of-school suspensions of one day or more. In-school suspensions, expulsions, arrests or referrals to law enforcement, and districts with suspected inaccuracies in their data, were not included.
Although the report's data does not show the reason for or duration of suspensions, state data indicate that many suspensions are for minor offenses. For example, more than 40 percent of suspensions in California are for "willful defiance," or any behavior that disrupts class.Seventeen districts or county offices of education suspended 20 percent or more of their students in 2009-10. The Manteca Unified School District suspended 1 in 3 students – the highest rate in the state.
Black and American Indian students faced even greater risk of suspension at Manteca: 59.6 percent and 42.4 percent, respectively. The district, which enrolled about 24,000 students at the time, also reported the state's highest rate of suspensions for Hispanic students: 29.7 percent. By comparison, 33 percent of white students were suspended.
Although Manteca reported those figures, they may be erroneous, said Rupinder Bhatti, the district's director of child welfare and attendance. After seeing the center's report yesterday, Bhatti believes suspension records were duplicated and misidentified when the district converted to a new database system in 2009-10. She said she is reviewing the data and will be seeing how it can be amended in the federal database and the center's analysis.
Manteca's true overall suspension rate is closer to the 10 to 15 percent range, Bhatti estimated. The rate among African Americans is closer to 20 percent.
"We don't resort to suspensions instantly for the first incident," Bhatti said. "We try other interventions to correct the behavior – such as parent conference, student conference – before resorting to a suspension."
Minorities at many of the state's largest schoo