Six of 10 Texas High School Seniors Have Been Suspended, Expelled or Arrested

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More Texas students have been suspended or expelled than have not, according to a forthcoming study of state trends on school discipline. And the margin isn’t that close.

Details of the study will not be public until July 19, but Council of State Governments Justice Center Director Michael Thompson said at a federal juvenile justice meeting yesterday that nearly six out of 10 Texas students had received an in-school or out-of-school suspension, were expelled, or were incarcerated at some point by their 12th grade year.

It is the first look at an entire state’s practices in disciplining students. It tracks  928,940 students who entered seventh grade between 2000 and 2003, using records from Texas school districts and the agencies that oversee juvenile probation and confinement.

Thompson discussed the findings at the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention meeting, which was attended by Attorney General Eric Holder. The study found that:

  • 58 percent of the students had received a suspension or worse by 12th grade.
  • The vast majority (about 90 percent) of those actions were taken at the discretion of school administrators. The notion that state law or federal law drives suspensions and expulsions “is simply not the case,” Thompson said.
  • Violent offenses accounted for about 10 percent of the disciplinary actions.

The study also will show that a healthy percentage of youth have 11 or more disciplinary actions, Thompson indicated, and many of them also have juvenile records.

Thompson described the presence of an emotional disturbance as an “off the charts” predictor of severe discipline.

The study does not cover truancy or anything about law enforcement presence on school grounds.

In the meeting, OJJDP Acting Administrator Jeff Slowikowski suggested that a report being produced by the coordinating council likely would recommend some federal action on zero tolerance policies in schools.