School Suspensions

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School Suspensions


Who is Suspended

Since the 1970s, suspensions have increased in U.S. schools, and racial disparities in suspensions have increased. In 1972-73, three percent of whites, Hispanics, and Native Americans were suspended out of school for one day or more, compared to six percent of African-American students.[1] By 2006-07, five percent of whites were suspended out of school, compared to seven percent of Hispanics, 8 percent of Native Americans, and 15% of African-Americans. (The numbers of Asian students suspended has risen too, but they are suspended at a lower rate compared to students of other races.)

While national out of school suspension rates for students with disabilities are slightly higher but similar to rates of all students, in some states, the numbers are much different. The most severe are as follows:[1]


Because the data presented above is aggregated for all grades K-12, it "unintentionally masked consistently higher rates of suspension at both the middle and high school level."[2] When examining only middle schools from 18 of the nation's largest school districts, one study found that in 2006 28.3% of black males, 16.3% of Hispanic males, and 15.9% of Native American males were suspended compared to 10% of white males. Suspension rates were lower for females but the disparities remained: 18% of black females were suspended, compared to only four percent of white females. Some districts, Palm Beach and Milwaukee, suspended more than half of all black males at least once during the school year. All in all, 175 schools suspended more than one-third of black males and 95 suspended more than one-third of black females, compared to 53 and 29, respectively, that did so for whites of each sex.

Why Are Students Suspended

Students are suspended for fighting and for drugs or weapons violations, as well as for other, more subjective, causes like "willful defiance" or unruly behavior.

At the end of the 2012-2013, the Los Angeles Unified School District banned suspending students for "willful defiance," a "an offense criticized as a subjective catch-all for such behavior as refusing to take off a hat, turn off a cellphone or failing to wear a school uniform."[3] That year, the district had suspended 11,898 students.[4] The following school year, it suspended only 8,864.

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 Daniel J. Losen, "Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice," The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA], October 2011.
  2. Daniel J. Losen and Russell Skiba, "Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis," Southern Poverty Law Center.
  3. Teresa Watanabe, "L.A. Unified bans suspension for 'willful defiance'," Los Angeles Times, May 14, 2013.
  4. Howard Blume, "Big drop in number of California students who are suspended, expelled," Los Angeles Times, January 15, 2015.

External resources

External articles



  • "Joint "Dear Colleague" Letter," U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, January 8, 2014.