By Morgan Smith and Ari Auber
Almost 55 percent of recent Texas public school students — a disproportionate number of them African-American or with learning disabilities — were suspended at least once between their seventh and 12th grade years, according to a statewide report released today.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center, in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A&M University, analyzed the individual school records of all Texas seventh grade public school students during the years 2000, 2001 and 2002. They tracked the records of nearly 1 million students for at least six years of their secondary school education.
“As much as I work in the field, I’m shocked by the numbers,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston and the chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice committee.
The 121-page report details how punishment at public schools might lead to later brushes with the law by linking the disciplinary history of each student who also had a juvenile record.
Among the findings: Minorities and special education students who caused “emotional disturbances” were more likely than white students to be disciplined. In fact, nearly three-fourths of students in special education classes were suspended or expelled at least one time; 83 percent of African-American male students ended up in trouble, in comparison to 74 percent for Hispanic male students and 59 percent for white male students. Among all students, suspensions averaged about two days per offense.
After being suspended or expelled in school, students were consequently more likely to repeat a grade or drop out than their more less-sanctioned counterparts. They were also more likely to have a run-in with the juvenile justice system.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Wallace Jefferson highlighted the link between school discipline and the juvenile justice system in his January State of the State address. In an emailed statement Monday, he said the report “adds important numbers to anecdotal evidence of needed reforms.” Read more…