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African American students with disabilities face disproportionately high suspension rates and lose more classroom time than white counterparts, study finds.

African-American special education students nationwide lose substantially more instruction time due to discipline than their white counterparts, according to a report by The Civil Rights Project at UCLA and the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard University.

The report, “Disabling Punishment: The Need for Remedies to the Disparate Loss of Instruction Experienced by Black Students with Disabilities,” extrapolated its findings from federal data from 2014-15 and 2015-16, the last year for which it is available. Released last month, it examined only white and black students, in part because research has found that black students overall are suspended at the highest rates of all student groups.

The report found that nationwide, for every 100 students with special needs in 2015-16, white students lost 43 days to suspension, while black students lost 121 days. The findings showed a slight increase in disparity between the two groups over the previous year.

Nevada, Nebraska, Ohio, Missouri and Tennessee posted the highest black-white gaps. California fell below the national average: For every 100 students with special needs, white students lost 31 days to suspension, while black students lost 82 days. Still, the disproportionality remained stark.

“There is a huge amount of lost instruction for black kids due to their suspension that is very different from what white kids are experiencing and it needs to be addressed,” said Daniel J. Losen, the report’s author. “I was shocked and I’ve been working in this area for some time.”

The data covers both out-of-school and in-school suspensions, where students sent out of class remain in the building under supervision. But Losen said his analysis assumed that all suspensions led to lost instructional time.

The report notes that special needs students who are suspended are also likely to lose access to other services that they normally receive on campus, such as counseling, physical and occupational therapy, and tutoring.

“That is why the huge racial difference in the amount of instruction time lost suggests that black students with disabilities face an especially grave problem,” the report notes.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which mandates that students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education, states are required to track and report racial disparities, including in discipline. However, over the past two years, federal monitoring reports indicate fewer than half the states identified any school districts with such disparities. Yet Losen’s analysis found that some of the states that reported no such disparities in fact have the highest racial disproportionality in suspensions.

The impetus for the analysis, Losen said, was the U.S. Department of Education’s proposal to delay by two years implementation of Obama-era regulations crafted to tighten federal oversight and consistency of state reporting. The regulations, slated to go into effect in July, would also ensure that districts with identified racial disproportionality in suspensions receive funding to correct the problem. The Department of Education is accepting comments until May 14th on the proposed delay.

The regulations “were a response to this awareness that most states were not fulfilling their obligation,” Losen said. “I don’t think the new regulations are perfect but the old ones have a serious problem.”

The National Association of State Directors of Special Education also opposes a delay. In a Feb. 6 letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, association leaders wrote that postponing implementation of the regulations “not only stops work already in motion, but it suggests that the identification and redress of significant disproportionality can be put on hold… Postponing implementation of the regulation sends the wrong message at the wrong time.”

The report comes as DeVos mulls whether to roll back broader Obama-era policies aimed at curbing racial disparities in discipline that pertain to all students. A GAO report released last month showed that racial disparities are widespread and persist regardless of the type of discipline or poverty level. African-American students, for example, accounted for 15.5 percent of all public school students, but represented about 39 percent of students suspended from school.

 

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  1. Dkel 3 months ago3 months ago

    "Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which mandates that students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education, states are required to track and report racial disparities, including in discipline." Let's be very clear, inability to sit in a classroom without disrupting the teacher, without cursing out the teacher, without attacking other students … Read More

    “Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which mandates that students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education, states are required to track and report racial disparities, including in discipline.”

    Let’s be very clear, inability to sit in a classroom without disrupting the teacher, without cursing out the teacher, without attacking other students for performing at a higher level on a test which makes low performing students “look bad” is not a disability in the cognitive, psychiatric, nor psychosocial area where black students require special treatment.

    Yes, under the revised version of the DSM (the diagnostic system for the psychiatric world), children are being diagnosed as disabled – but that is driven by poorly trained clinicians in child development. Well trained clinicians, specializing in Piaget’s Cognitive Development, Kohlberg’s Moral Reasoning, and Erikson’s Psychosocial Development models are in an uproar because this system is based on a “diseased” type model and everyone breathing can be diagnosed with something to be called disabled. I professionally know of one case where a 5 year old black boy was diagnosed with Conduct Disorder and ADD for jumping on a bed and admitted to a psychiatric hospital for “failing to realize the danger of jumping on the bed.” Treatment was to prescribed psychiatric medication for the “chemical imbalance.” Child never received an effect disciplinary model, neither did parents.

    DSM V is constantly being ridiculed by the practitioners for overpathologizing America’s children, especially the boys. That being stated, child development specialists, working in the community as practitioners, recognizes that the main problem is lack of appropriate social skills and discipline taken out of the schools and taken out of the home. Another main problem is clinicians, at all levels, need to be certified in child development theory and practice prior to working with this population. Dept. of Education should redirect taxpayer resources to ensure the clinicians are able to pay for continuing education and less tracking on school district stats for black males who have no or little respect for social appropriate norms for classroom behavior.

    Bring education back into the responsible hands of the educator in the classroom and out of the hands of the politicians.

  2. Danielle 4 months ago4 months ago

    Behavior, discipline, structure is not a sociological problem to be analyzed as a racial disparity issue. No one wins in this context. Not the child. Not the students who want to learn in a safe, stimulating educational environment. Not society. School must have rules … Read More

    Behavior, discipline, structure is not a sociological problem to be analyzed as a racial disparity issue. No one wins in this context. Not the child. Not the students who want to learn in a safe, stimulating educational environment. Not society. School must have rules and structure. The child learns behavior has consequences. Because of the movement to remove consequences from one’s actions, society is seeing a growing population which has no respect for rules, laws, themselves, etc.

  3. Johnathan E Steinbach 5 months ago5 months ago

    While I do understand the numerical disparity, you have to be in the proverbial trenches to see why it happens. It is so easy to be on the outside and use numbers to make a case. The fact is: make it about economics and you find the disparity suddenly is not so disproportionate. We have caused this ludicrous racial issue because it seems we want to. I am the parent of a black son and … Read More

    While I do understand the numerical disparity, you have to be in the proverbial trenches to see why it happens. It is so easy to be on the outside and use numbers to make a case. The fact is: make it about economics and you find the disparity suddenly is not so disproportionate. We have caused this ludicrous racial issue because it seems we want to. I am the parent of a black son and a lifelong educator. My child never got suspended, when he should have, only because he was black. The white kids got in trouble because they deserved it. In schools that are “black” schools, not by delineation but due to where folks live, the kids who get suspended are, go figure, black.
    I am tired of the pseudo-research propagated by those who have no real understanding. In the real world, suspensions are down by incredible numbers, But kids have no right to ruin the possibilities of other kids. Parents need to take responsibility for the actions of themselves-that is an entire different conversation- and their kids and stop complaining about suspension rates. I want to educate your kid, but you have to want the same thing not just somewhere for her to go.

  4. Bruce 6 months ago6 months ago

    “Released last month, it examined only white and black students,”

    Not including all students then doesn’t seem to give full context of the situation.