African American students, students with low test scores, and students with disabilities were much more likely to be suspended than other students, according to a new report from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research (UChicago CCSR).
According to the report, Discipline Practices in Chicago Schools: Trends in the Use of Suspensions and Arrests, about one-third of African American high school boys received an out-of-school suspension (OSS) in School Year (SY) 2013–14, compared to 13 percent of Latino high school boys and 6 percent of white/Asian high school boys. Rates were also high for African American high school girls, 23 percent of whom received an OSS, compared to only 6 percent for Latina high school girls and 2 percent for white/Asian high school girls.
These rates mirror suspension rates nationwide, which are also disproportionately high for African American students. According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection, disproportionately high suspension and expulsion rates for African American students begins as early as preschool.
As shown in the graph below, African American children represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment, but they account for 42 percent of preschool students who are suspended once and 48 percent of preschool students who receive more than one OSS. By comparison, white students represent 43 percent of preschool enrollment, but only 26 percent of preschool children who receive more than one OSS.
Among students with disabilities, 24 percent of high school students and 16 percent of middle school students received an OSS. Rates for students with test scores in the bottom quartile in the prior school year were similar.
“Thus, students who start the year with the weakest academic skills are more likely than other students to receive a suspension that removes them from classroom instruction,” the report notes.
Overall, the report finds that OSSs are decreasing. In SY 2009–10, 24 percent of high school students received an OSS, compared to 16 percent in SY 2013–14. During the six years covered by the report, Chicago Public Schools implemented policies to improve school climate and reduce the amount of instructional time lost to suspension. The move was in response to a larger national push to move away from “zero-tolerance” policies that remove students from the classroom in favor of alternate measures that address discipline in fair and equitable ways, help build positive school climate, and engage students.
The report points out that students who are suspended or expelled are more likely to struggle academically and drop out of school. Additionally, students who attend schools with zero-tolerance approaches to discipline are also likely to experience negative school environments. In the future, UChicago CCSR will release a follow-up report that examines the relationship between reductions in suspensions and school climate, particularly in schools that had the highest suspension rates.
Discipline Practices in Chicago Schools: Trends in the Use of Suspensions and Arrests is available at https://ccsr.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Discipline%20Report.pdf.
The Alliance for Excellent Education also released a series of four reports on school climate and alternate methods of school discipline. More information on these reports is available at https://all4ed.org/?s=&category=school-climate&show_only=reports.