Charter Schools Suspend Black Students and Students with Disabilities at Alarming Rates

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March 17, 2016; New York Times

A new analysis of federal education data shows that black students in charter schools are suspended at four times the rate of white students and that students with disabilities are suspended two to three times the rate of those without disabilities.

The study was done by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and studied nearly 5,000 charters for the academic year 2011–2012. While the differences are not markedly different from public schools overall, charters tend to suspend students at higher rates in general—7.8 percent in charters as compared to 6.7 percent in traditional public schools.

Students with disabilities were suspended at a rate of 15.5 percent as compared to 13.7 percent at traditional public schools. In fact, there were 235 schools in the study that had suspended at least half their students with disabilities. These statistics are even more concerning when disability advocates note that charters accept a lower proportion of students with disabilities than traditional public schools.

Suspension rates for black students get markedly worse with age, with only a third of elementary charter schools suspending more than 10 percent of black students compared to close to 40 percent of charter high schools suspending at least 25 percent of black students enrolled that year.

The New York Times points to research showing that black students are suspended for behaviors for which that white students are not, and that subjective categories like “defiance” or “disrespect” are used more often with black students. Some charter networks have come under fire for suspending for minor infractions under “no excuses” codes of behavior.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Leconte

    We must do something immediately! It is clear that racism is involved. It could not possibly be that some members of some races or cultures are 1.1% more likely to conduct themselves in ways that
    disrupt the learning process. I challenge anyone to show examples of such behavior in schools with minority student majorities.

    We must prohibit charter schools from using “subjective” categories like “defiance” or “disrespect” as reasons to suspend students. It is important that charter schools be as unable to educate their students as public schools.

    And, it is highly suspect that as little kids in elementary school grow into teenagers that they would be viewed as more oppositional and less likely to follow rules. Who ever heard of that? Clearly racism again.

    Finally, it is unconscionable that schools formed specifically due to the failure of public schools should have “alarming” rates of 1.1% greater overall suspensions, and 1.8% greater suspensions of the
    disabled. We can only assume that the school staff and not the students are responsible.

    Legislation must be passed immediately to put the students in charge of all disciplinary decisions.
    If any study shows a 1.1% difference or greater in the rates of punishment of one group from another, there must be fines, imprisonment, or the charter schools themselves must be shut down.

    Thank you Ruth for bringing these “alarming” circumstances to our attention.