Students with disabilities are suspended about twice as often as their peers, a new analysis from the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at the University of California, Los Angeles, has found.
Analyzing data that districts submitted to the federal Education Department's office of civil rights, researchers found that the rate of suspension for students with disabilities was about 13 percent, compared with 7 percent for students without disabilities.
Most alarming, they said, was that one in four black students with disabilities was suspended at least once during the 2009-10 school year. That figure is 16 percentage points higher than for white students with disabilities. (Nearly one in six African-American students without disabilities was suspended from school during the 2009-10 academic year.)
Some of these students may have an explicit need for help with their behavior outlined in their education plans, which should warrant counseling or appropriate therapy, noted Daniel J. Losen, the director of the Civil Rights Project's Center for Civil Rights Remedies.
"This number suggests there's something very, very amiss," he said.
The analysis, part of a larger analysis of suspension rates by the organization, was based on information from the civil rights data collection. The data accounts for about 85 percent of all public school students in the country.
Looking deeper at discipline rates for students with disabilities, Losen and his colleagues found that black students with disabilities also had the greatest risk of being suspended two or more times in 2009-10—14 percent—compared with 4.1 percent for white students with disabilities.
But "within every racial group, students with disabilities had a much higher risk of being suspended two or more times in the 2009-10 school year" than their counterparts without disabilities, the researchers found.
In addition, in at least 10 of the states analyzed, including Illinois, Delaware, Connecticut, Indiana, and Oklahoma, more than a quarter of black students with disabilities were suspended, the data show.