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Racial disparities in suspensions still a California problem

It is questionable whether suspending a student from school is an effective discipline strategy. When it is your child, you may need to step in and fight what might be disproportionate discipline.

Troubling racial disparities are still widely reported in California schools. Across the state, African American students make up just six percent of the student body. Unfortunately, they account for 16.4 percent of students suspended.

A senior policy associate with the Children’s Defense Fund, Angelica Salazar, views this as a training issue. She suggests more trainings in schools on implicit racial bias.

Lowering the number of defiance suspension would be another step in the right direction. These types of suspension are common when a student “talks back” to a teacher or uses profanity.

This disparity is troubling in the wider context of decreasing suspensions.

Overall reductions in suspensions

School districts across the state have been taking steps to reduce the number of suspensions. Overall, they dropped to 243,603 in the 2014-15 school year from the prior school year figure of 279,383. The reduction is even more apparent when looking back a couple years. In the 2011-2012 academic year, there were 366,629.

However, the number of formal suspensions does not fully capture the number of students removed from classrooms. Often a disruptive student will be placed in a detention-like setting left staring as a desk or the wall. While not rising to the level of suspension, removing a student from class leads to falling behind.

Due process rights

If your child attends a public school, the district must notify you of its intent to suspend and provide an opportunity to challenge the action. The proposed suspension may not be commensurate with your child actions. Or it could be that undiagnosed special needs are the cause of behavior issues.

When you have concerns about school discipline, speak with an education law attorney. You and your family have rights and it may be appropriate to challenge the disciplinary action.

Source: LA School Report, “Truancy, suspension rates drop in greater Los Angeles area schools,” Nadra NIttle, Mar. 7, 2016

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