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May 22, 2019

The majority of school districts across the region discipline students of color at higher rates than white students, advocates call for statewide school discipline reform

ALBANY - New analysis of federal education data released by The New York Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Region chapter today shows that districts across the region discipline students of color at higher rates than white students. The NYCLU analyzed the rates of out-of-school suspensions recorded in the most recent federal civil rights data for districts across eight counties in the region, finding that Black students were between 2 and 10 times more likely than white students to be suspended from school. 
 
“The high rates of suspensions and the disproportionate enforcement against students of color in our local schools shows just how wrongheaded school discipline policies continue to be,” said Melanie Trimble, director of the NYCLU’s Capital Region chapter. “Suspensions have a profound impact on students, denying them valuable education time, increasing drop-out rates, and fueling the School-to-Prison pipeline.”
 
The NYCLU analyzed the most recent federal civil rights data released by the U.S. Department of Education, which covers the 2015-2016 period, from 75 school districts across the 8 counties: Albany, Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Warren, and Washington.
 
 Key findings from the analysis include: 
  • On average, Black students in the region were 3.85 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers. 
  • Some districts far exceeded the average. The 120 Black students in the Saratoga Springs school district were more than 9 times more likely to be suspended than the district’s 5,726 white students. 
  • The disparities were just as stark in suburban school districts as in city schools. In the Burnt Hills/Ballston Lake district, for example, the 38 Black students are more than 10 times as likely to receive out-of-school suspensions as the district’s 2,873 white students.
  • In some districts, suspension rates were unusually high across the board. Nearly one fifth of all Schenectady students were suspended during this period, with Black and Latinx students more than 2 and 1.5 times likely to be suspended, respectively.  
Trimble sent a letter to all of the local school districts included in the analysis with district-by-district data and recommendations for addressing disparities in school discipline at the school, district, and state level. Recommendations include ending zero tolerance discipline policies, addressing implicit bias through training for teachers and administrators, ensuring due process in suspension hearings, and passing the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, statewide legislation which would reduce the use of suspensions and expand disciplinary tools for teachers by providing support and training on restorative justice practices. 
 
“The vast disparities in school discipline that we see in the Capital Region schools represent a civil rights crisis, denying Black children access to their education. This pattern is not unique to the Capital Region or even to New York state, but it is a pattern that must end now,” said Johanna Miller, director of the NYCLU’s Education Policy Center. “The state legislature should take action by passing the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, a much-needed step towards reducing exclusionary school discipline and investing in reforms that will make our schools safe, nurturing environments for all students.” 
 

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