Out of School and Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools

by Daniel J. Losen; Tia Martinez

Apr 8, 2013

Analyzing data from over 26,000 U.S. middle and high schools, the report reveals profound disparities in suspension rates when disaggregating data by race/ethnicity, gender, and disability status. The report identifies districts with the largest number of "hotspot" schools (suspending 25 percent or more of their total student body), suggests alternatives that are already in use, and highlights civil rights concerns.
  • Between 1972-1973 and 2009-2010, the use of suspensions for black secondary students grew by 12.5 percentage points (from 11.8 percent to 24.3 percent), while the increase for white students was 1.1 (from 6 percent to 7.1 percent).
  • Middle school black males were suspended at a rate of nearly 31 percent, compared with 10 percent for white males and 17 percent for Latino males.
  • African-American females in secondary schools were suspended at higher rates than males of any other racial/ethnic group.
  • The most profound disparities appeared when looking at race, gender, and disability status combined: 36 percent of black male students with disabilities enrolled in secondary schools were suspended at least once in 2009-2010. That was 14 percentage points greater than the next group, Latino males with disabilities (22 percent).
  • Differences in suspension rates can be found among schools in the same district – e.g., Los Angeles Unified has large numbers of both lower-suspending schools and higher-suspending schools – suggesting that successful alternative approaches are already in place.