New federal data shines light on disparities in school discipline practices

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New statistics released

New federal data from the nation’s 97,000 public schools, released March 21, shows that students with disabilities are dramatically more likely to be suspended, arrested, restrained and secluded than students without disabilities.

“This data collection shines a clear, unbiased light on places that are delivering on the promise of an equal education for every child and places where the largest gaps remain. In all, it is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a news release.

Thirteen percent of students with disabilities received out-of-school suspensions, more than double than the rate for peers, which is about six percent. Moreover, students with disabilities, despite consisting of just 12 percent of the student population, represented a quarter of all law enforcement arrests.

The data showed that students with disabilities, despite consisting of just 12 percent of the student population, represented nearly three-quarters of students physically restrained and 58 percent of those placed in seclusion.

In 2012, the Department of Education released the first federal guidance urging limits on restraint and seclusion techniques. Last month, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) reintroduced the Keeping All Students All Safe Act, a bill to create the first federal standards regulating the practice.

The data, which comes from the 2011-2012 school year, represents the first time since 2000 that the DOE’s Civil Rights Division has released comprehensive data from all the nation’s public schools.

“For the first time in the history of this country, a detailed picture of the multiple ways too many schools are harming our children is now available to every parent, educator and concerned citizen,” the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said in a news release. “Predictably and quite shamefully, that picture is not at all pretty.

“The CRDC shows that our nation continues to support essentially two education systems – one that works well for privileged students and one that is failing minority and low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities.”