Disturbing Inequities: Exploring the Relationship Between Racial Disparities in Special Education Identification and Discipline

by Cheri Hodson; Daniel Losen; Jongyeon Ee; Tia Martinez

Jan 1, 2014

This study examines whether exposure to novice teachers and risk for identification for special education predicated suspension rates. Identification as having emotional disturbance and specific learning disabilities were found to predict an increase in suspension rates for Black male students. The report's findings draw from 72,168 schools in nearly 7,000 school districts from nearly every state.
  • In 2011-12, students with disabilities in grades K-12 were twice as likely to be suspended when compared to their nondisabled peer. Suspension rates are much higher for student with disabilities who were Black and male, with one of every five having been suspended at least once.
  • From 2009-2011, roughly 27 percent of black males with disabilities enrolled in schools were suspended at least once, compared to 11 percent for White males with disabilities.
  • First and second year teachers may be more likely than their experienced colleagues to refer minority students for special education evaluation.
  • Within the study's sample size, Black students had highest change of being identified with emotional disturbance, an intellectual disability, or a speech or language impairment.
  • The percentage of Black students with disabilities suspended increased as the percentage of Black student enrollment increased from 0 to 43 percent across the schools examined.