If you’re a black student in the Clark County School District, you are three times more likely to be expelled from school than your nonblack peers.
Furthermore, your odds of getting suspended are more than double those of your nonblack peers.
These are the startling facts that have surfaced in a Vanderbilt University report on student discipline in Las Vegas. The study, which was commissioned by the School District, prompted Superintendent Dwight Jones to begin rethinking school conduct policies that disproportionately impact black students.
Schools across the nation are suspending and expelling black students at a higher rate than any other ethnic student group, resulting in hundreds of days of lost instructional time.
That has been particularly true in Clark County. Although black students constitute just 12 percent of the student population, they accounted for 43 percent of all high school student expulsions during the 2009-10 school year. Last school year, nearly a third of all behavior school referrals at the high school level were of black students.
At some Clark County schools, administrators are suspending students at alarming rates. Many of these schools serve students who are predominantly from minority backgrounds.
In response to these shocking figures, Superintendent Jones tasked a 24-member committee this past July to study this problem and come up with solutions. On Thursday, the Superintendent’s Educational Opportunities Advisory Council released 10 recommendations to mitigate the overrepresentation of minority student groups in school suspensions and expulsions.
The committee recommended that the district impose a moratorium on suspensions and expulsions, except for what the district calls the “big five” offenses. These are the most severe offenses outlined under the Federal Guns-Free School Act of 1994: arson, weapons, drug distribution, battery or assault that results in injury and inappropriate sexual relationships.
Instead of issuing suspensions and expulsions, the district should investigate alternative disciplinary policies, the committee said. The new models should be tiered to match escalating poor behavior and include parent notification policies.
The committee also recommended that the district provide mandatory cultural diversity training for all new teachers and administrators, and that one professional development day each year will focus on understanding cultural diversity.
School Board members commended the committee’s work. They argued the time is now to correct a long-standing inequity in the district.
“We have some wrongs that need to be righted in this district,” said School Board member Chris Garvey, choking back tears. “This is the first step in making this right in our district.”