African American students in Virginia in 2014-15 were 3.6 times more likely to be suspended from school than white students, a report from a children's advocacy group asserts.
"Suspended Progress," a report from the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, Va., also found that students with disabilities received suspensions 2.4 times more often than those without disabilities.
The report contends that school systems in Virginia rely too heavily on suspensions—more than 126,000 suspensions and expulsions to about 70,000 students. The group characterized most of the suspensions as relatively minor, non-violent misbehavior and notes that federal officials have been urging states and local schools to reduce the use of suspensions.
“Suspension hurts everyone," says Angela Ciolfi, JustChildren’s Legal Director and co-author of the report. "Suspended students are at a significantly greater risk of academic failure, dropping out, and becoming involved in the justice system. Worse yet, suspension damages school climate, public safety, and the economy.”
The report says that African American students made up 23 percent of the student population, but were subjected to 58 percent of short-term suspensions, 60 percent of long-term suspensions, and 55 percent of expulsions. Students with disabilities were 12.3 percent of the student population, but were subjected to 27.6 percent of short-term suspensions, 22 percent of long-term suspensions, and 21 percent of expulsions.
In the report, JustChildren calls attention to several intervention programs that schools could use as an alternative to out-of-school suspensions.
The group also urges state and local officials to set limits on the use of suspension and expulsion, and provide additional funding so that school can adopt "proven methods of preventing and addressing misbehavior without using suspension and expulsion."