Black and Latino students in Massachusetts are more than three times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their White counterparts, a rate double the national disparity.
These findings were published in a report by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice (LCCREJ), a nonprofit organization that provides free legal counsel to persons who have been discriminated against because of their race or nationality.
“While Massachusetts out-of-school suspension rates are lower than the national average, our racial disparities in out-of-school suspension are, in some cases, on par with, and in other cases much worse, than what we see across the country,” said Matt Cregor, staff attorney with LCCREJ, in an interview with the AFRO.
“The thing that I think is most disconcerting is that two-thirds of our out-of-school suspensions are for behaviors the state has classified as non-violent, non-drug, non-criminal offenses. So these are your dress code violations, your tardiness, your defiance, your disrespect,” said Cregor.
The problem of disproportionate suspension rates was found to be particularly acute in Boston’s charter schools—which are often purported as the cure to achievement gaps for students of color—where the average in- and out-of-school suspension rates were 17.3 percent, as opposed to 6.6 percent for Boston’s traditional public schools. One Boston charter school, Roxbury Preparatory, was found to have suspended 59.8 percent of its students out-of-school.
“We give our charter schools a great degree of latitude and flexibility on the promise that they will provide a high quality education to our students,” said Cregor. “These suspension rates make me think they’re not delivering on that promise.”
Cregor says that districts across the country have managed to cut down their out-of-school suspension rates while simultaneously improving test scores by implementing innovative disciplinary programs such as restorative justice and positive behavior support. Reducing those rates is imperative for the long-term well-being of Massachusetts’s children of color.
“Everything we know from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and others suggests that out-of-school suspension is a top predictor of drop-out, grade retention, and involvement in the juvenile justice system,” said Cregor.
Access the study here.