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Some SD Schools Shy Away From Suspensions

— A new report finds middle and high schools across the country have increased their use of out-of-school suspensions since the 1970s. The increase has disproportionately affected African-American students and those with disabilities.

San Diego Unified had one of the highest concentrations of schools with low suspension rates according to a new report.

Nearly a quarter of black students across the country were suspended during the 2009-10 school year compared to just 7.1 percent of white students. Twelve percent of Latino students were suspended that year. Those with disabilities had a suspension rate of 19.3 percent compared to 6.6 percent of students without disabilities.

Researchers found that a student suspended just once was twice as likely to drop out before graduating high school.

The analysis of national suspension data from the 2009-10 school year by the UCLA Civil Rights Project found that San Diego Unified was among 10 districts with the most schools with suspension rates of 10 percent or lower. But that same year, nearly 20 percent of city middle and high schools had high suspension rates for students in one or more racial or educational category.

That kind of disparity within school districts is common, said Dan Losen, director of civil rights remedies for the UCLA-based project. But that could be a positive thing.

“Proven, effective alternatives, if you will, in many large districts at least, are right there in the district already," Losen said. "There are educators there that are finding other ways to support kids and address misbehavior without kicking kids out of school right and left.”

Alternatives to suspension such as increased counseling and better training for teachers on how to manage disruptive behavior have been found to be more effective in increasing academic performance and improving school safety, according to recent studies sponsored by the UCLA group.

That means district leaders should be asking themselves hard questions when it comes to spending school safety dollars, like "do we really have enough counselors? Are teachers trained in effective classroom behavior management? Are there supports for kids with disabilities so that they're not getting suspended at these incredibly high rates?" Losen said. "Because there are some uses of the funds that are going to be much more effective than others."


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