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Change in Leadership Leads to Increased Suspensions in Minneapolis

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By Corey Mitchell. Cross posted from District Dossier.

The Minneapolis school district is experiencing a spike in suspensions since the departure of former Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

Reducing suspensions was one of Johnson's top priorities. In the fall, she announced a ban on suspensions of pre-kindergartners, kindergartners and first-graders. She also established a staff review panel that assesses all suspensions of students of color.

But the district's suspension rates began to increase soon after Johnson's departure in December.

The Star Tribune reports that Minneapolis school district educators sent students home 1,626 times from August to December. But in the first four months of this semester, there were more than 3,000 suspensions.

District officials could not explain the dramatic increase to the newspaper but say they remain committed to reducing suspensions.

"We take this very seriously, and we need to maintain the momentum," interim Superintendent Michael Goar told the Star Tribune.

The Star Tribune reports indicate that "suspension numbers typically increase, even dramatically, during the spring," but that the spike has been more dramatic this year than in the past.

"In previous years, the number of suspensions in the spring months have gone up 20 to 40 percent compared to the fall months. This year, suspensions between January and April jumped 80 percent compared to the first five months of the school year," the paper reports.

The Minneapolis schools are under federal orders to keep tabs on their suspension numbers, particularly among minority students.

In November, district leaders agreed to more than a dozen changes after a U.S. Department of Education investigation concluded that black students were suspended at significantly higher rates than white students. As a result, the district must report its progress on reducing suspensions for students of color to the education department's office for civil rights.

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