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Texas Districts Flagged for Suspending Students With Disabilities

Disability Rights Texas has flagged 30 districts for disproportionately using out-of-school suspensions to punish students with disabilities.

Based on data from the Texas Education Agency, the group said that in these 30 districts, about 22 percent of students with disabilities were suspended out of school during the 2010-11 school year, compared to an average of 7 percent for students with disabilities in all Texas districts. But across all groups of students in all districts, only about 4 percent of students were suspended out of school, Disability Rights Texas said in a report this month.

The group, along with several others, is asking the districts to change their approaches to discipline.

"We want to help school districts that still rely on failed discipline policies, by letting them see how they compare to other districts, where they can find research about out-of-school suspension, and how they can achieve better results in improving student behavior," said Dustin Rynders, a supervising attorney at Disability Rights Texas.

Their report coincides with another recent report on the widespread use of out-of-school suspension. That analysis, which used federal Education Department data, found that the rate of suspension for students with disabilities was about 13 percent, compared with 7 percent for students without disabilities during the 2009-10 school year.

Disability Rights Texas plans to offer training to parents in the 30 districts with the highest out-of-school suspension rates. The districts include Houston, Waco, and South San Antonio.

"Most parents understand that rewarding students who misbehave with repeated vacations from school is unlikely to improve their behavior. Many parents do not know they can use special education law to advocate for improved behavior assessment and planning," Rynders said.

Echoing the University of California, Los Angeles researchers who worked on the national study of out-of-school suspensions, he said districts that rely heavily on suspending students may have failed to meet students' behavioral needs.

"Hopefully this report will start a conversation in each district on the use of out-of-school suspension and how to better address student misbehavior," Rynders said.

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