Grand Rapids Schools Hit With Sanctions for Suspending Blacks, Students With Disabilities at Higher Rates

Monica Scott, Grand Rapids Press, March 9, 2011

The state has cited Grand Rapids Public Schools for suspending a “significantly disproportionate” number of black and special education students–a move that has forced the district to shift $1 million in federal funds to address the problem.

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He [Superintendent Bernard Taylor] said the district is under sanction by the state Education Department requiring it to redirect $1 million in special education funds into general education “to deal with the over suspension of special education students and African American males.”

The state monitored Grand Rapids for rates of suspension and expulsion greater than 10 days for black students with disabilities, and for all students with disabilities.

“They were selected for monitoring because the data reported by GRPS indicated a significant discrepancy in the rate of suspensions for all students with disabilities as well as African American students with disabilities,” the state reported.

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The report, which reviewed 2008-09 data, revealed that out of 268 special education suspensions/expulsions, 186 were black, 34 Hispanic, 29 white, 18 multi-ethnic and 1 Asian. Ottawa Hills had the most of the high schools with 22, all black students.

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The state says this is not a financial sanction, but a requirement that more special education funds be used for programs to prevent high rates of suspension and expulsion.

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