Report: Suspensions Harming Black Kids

African-American students are disproportionately punished this way, and some say it's creating a pathway straight to prison. 

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(The Root) -- Kids across America are being suspended at alarming rates. Black kids -- no huge surprise here, based on what we've heard before about disparities in school discipline -- face this punishment the most. It's even worse for those who have disabilities. And the implications are grave for their education and for their relationship with the criminal-justice system.

Those are just some of the conclusions reached by the authors of a report out this week from the UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles and Center for Civil Rights Remedies. It has startling findings about the use of suspensions in American schools, with particularly severe implications for black students.

The nationwide report was based on an analysis of federal-government suspension-related data from the 2009-2010 school year for grades K-12. It showed what study authors said was a striking pattern for students across the board, with 200 districts suspending 20 percent or more of their students at least once.

African-American students were overwhelmingly more likely than their white counterparts to be suspended from school. The report found that nearly 1 in 6 was suspended during the 2009-2010 school year, compared with 1 in 20 white students. Black students with disabilities faced the highest rates, with an average of 25 percent or more having been suspended in most of the sample districts.

"We have to reject this frequent out-of-school suspension, and we have to take a hard look at these racial and disability disparities," study author Daniel Losen told reporters on Tuesday. According to Losen, it's not just about the missed lessons on the particular day a child is being punished. For a student, he said, being suspended "is one of the lead indicators of dropping out or being incarcerated."

Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, also made a direct link between the report's findings and the "school-to-prison pipeline." Suspension, he said, is "in effect sentencing children to dropping out of school, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will end up in the criminal-justice system."

To view a copy of Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion From School, as well as the solutions proposed to decrease suspensions overall and to close the racial gap in suspension rates, visit civilrightsproject.ucla.edu.

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