Black Students Are Disciplined More Often Than Others in Louisiana Schools, Report Says

Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA, January 13, 2015

African-American students in Louisiana public schools are suspended and expelled at disproportionately high rates, according to a new report from the Education Department. It says that in the 2013-14 academic year, black children made up 44 percent of the public student body but received 63 percent of in-school suspensions, 67 percent of out-of-school suspensions and 68 percent of expulsions.

Overall, more than 72,000 of Louisiana’s 715,000 public school students received in-school suspensions last year, and more than 61,000 were sent home, according to the report. In addition, almost 4,400 students in K-12 received in-school expulsion, attending a separate program on their home campus, and 441 fifth- through 12th-graders were expelled and sent to alternative schools.

More than 15,500 students were sent home before they reached sixth grade. That included 1,040 kindergartners and 159 children in state-funded pre-kindergarten. {snip}

Comparable data from prior years was not immediately available. Still, the report seems likely to bolster calls for fewer out-of-school suspensions and more “restorative” measures such as mediation between students who are caught fighting. The data, including the racial disparity and the young ages of some students, are consistent with national trends that have led President Barack Obama’s administration to call for a crackdown on overly punitive school discipline policies.

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Most of the suspensions were for willful disobedience, fighting, treating authority with disrespect, disturbing the school or violating rules. Expulsions tended to be for more serious reasons: fighting, followed by drugs. Still, “disturbs the school and violates school rules” came third. One hundred twenty-six students received in-school expulsion, a major consequence, for using profane or obscene language. See a list of incidents by cause.

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Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Jennifer Coco said “there are serious risks” when children “are suspended for their inappropriate behavior instead of given a school-based disciplinary intervention and opportunity to learn why their behavior is inappropriate.”

To Coco, the report “poses an exciting opportunity for the advocacy community, concerned educators and the state’s top education officials to work together towards responsible and meaningful reforms to our school discipline laws.”

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