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How Often Are English-Learners Suspended?

Today, researchers at UCLA's Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, released an analysis of federal education data on out-of-school suspensions that paints a sobering picture for students who are African-American, Latino, or enrolled in special education programs.

Using data collected from more than 6,800 school districts by the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights, the researchers found that one in six African-American students was suspended from school at least once during the 2009-10 school year. The rate for Native American students was one in 12; for Latino students, it was one in 14. For whites, it was one in 20, and for Asian Americans, the rate was one in 50.

My colleague Nirvi Shah and I wrote a story about the report that you can read on edweek.org.

The Civil Rights Project report also highlights the high rates of suspension for students with disabilities, with African-American students with disabilities most subjected to the out-of-school discipline. One in four black children with disabilities were suspended in 2009-10, the researchers found.

Unfortunately, the report does not analyze suspension rates for English-language learners. The researchers said that ELLs are already counted among students by race and ethnicity, but there was no disaggregated data, for example, to show what percentage of Latino ELLs were suspended. They also said that while there are anecdotes of high suspension rates for ELLs in some districts, the majority of school districts reported no suspensions at all for them.

The report does include data reported to OCR for ELL suspensions in spreadsheets (labeled as LEP), including numbers for this subgroup from the 100 largest districts in the country. Los Angeles Unified, home to the largest population of English-learners, suspended 5.5 percent of such students.

The authors said they would provide an analysis on ELL suspensions once they resolve their questions about the data. Certainly, educators and policymakers need to know what the actual rates are for these kids, who can little afford to be missing out on precious instructional time.

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