Reports

Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies & Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color w/ Disabilities

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Author(s): U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Published: July 2019

Report Intro/Brief:
“For this report, the Commission investigated school discipline practices and policies impacting students of color with disabilities and the possible connections to the school-to-prison pipeline, examined rates of exclusionary discipline, researched whether and under what circumstances school discipline policies unfairly and/or unlawfully target students of color with disabilities, and analyzed the federal government’s responses and actions on the topic.

The Commission’s report reflects that several decades of research demonstrate persistent racial disparities in disciplinary rates and disparities based on disability status but much of scholarship based on this data has not analyzed how these policies affect those students who live at the intersection of these two identities. The literature available, however, does suggest that students of color with disabilities face exclusionary discipline pushing them into the school-to-prison pipeline at much higher rates than their peers without disabilities.And while exclusionary discipline has been shown to be harmful for the educational attainment of all students, students with disabilities, particularly those who are students of color, face even more challenges when they are not able to receive a quality education.

Key findings from the Commission majority include:

  • Students with disabilities are approximately twice as likely to be suspended throughout each school level compared to students without disabilities.
  • Students of color as a whole, as well as by individual racial group, do not commit more disciplinable offenses than their white peers – but black, Latinx, and Native American students in the aggregate receive substantially more school discipline than their white peers, and receive harsher and longer punishments than their white peers receive for like offenses.
  • Most recent available U.S. Department of Education data reflect that black, multiracial, Native American/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander American students with disabilities were more likely than white students with disabilities to be expelled without educational services.
  • According to Department of Education data 1.6 million students attend a school with a sworn law enforcement officer (SLEO) but not a school counselor and by the 2015-16 academic year, schools reported having more than 27,000 school resource officers (SROs), compared to 23,000 social workers. Latinx, Asian, and black students were all more likely than white students to attend a school with an SLEO but not a counselor.”

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