ACLU Report Shows Record High Racial Disparities in School Discipline Rates Last Year

Posted: Mar, 10, 2014

A report issued by the ACLU of Rhode Island today shows that Rhode Island’s public schools last year disproportionately suspended black students at the highest rates in nine years, while white students were suspended at record low rates. Like black children, Hispanic students remained severely over-suspended, with these disparities reaching all the way to the lowest grades. In addition, students generally – including elementary school children – were given out-of-school suspensions at alarming rates for minor disciplinary infractions.

The report, “Blacklisted: An Update,” is a follow-up to one the ACLU issued last June, which examined eight previous years of suspension data. That report also documented and explored the dangers of out-of-school suspensions and the disproportionate impact of suspensions on black and Hispanic youth, but the latest statistics demonstrate that the inappropriate and discriminatory use of out-of-school suspensions – even at the elementary school level – continues unabated across Rhode Island.

Among the findings from a review of data from the 2012-2013 school year:

The report concluded: “Rhode Island’s students deserve an education system that seeks to promote rather than punish them, and efforts by educators and the legislature in 2014 can make that possible. Swift action by Rhode Island’s leaders can ensure that another cohort of children does not find themselves the subject of increasingly grim statistics, and instead finds them granted all the educational opportunities we have to offer them.”

In finding little change from the eight years’ worth of statistics analyzed in its last report, the ACLU reiterated a series of recommendations for policy-makers to address this serious problem. Among the ACLU’s recommendations this year: the General Assembly should approve legislation limiting the use of out-of-school suspensions to serious offenses; school districts should examine annually their discipline rates for any racial or ethnic disparities, and identify ways to eliminate them; schools should ensure that punishments are clearly and evenly established for various offenses; and the state Department of Education should investigate and promote the use of alternative evidence-based disciplinary methods.