Federal officials say schools are restraining and secluding kids with disabilities far more often than other children and are disproportionately referring them to law enforcement.
Statistics released Friday from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights reveal widespread disparities in discipline between students in special education and their typically-developing peers.
Kids with disabilities represent three-quarters of children physically restrained and 58 percent of those placed in seclusion or some other form of involuntary confinement at school, the Education Department said. Such children are also more than twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension.
What’s more, federal officials found that children served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act account for a quarter of all students who are arrested and referred to law enforcement by schools.
Meanwhile, kids with disabilities represent just 12 percent of the nation’s students.
The findings come from the Education Department’s most comprehensive civil rights data release since 2000. For the report, officials with the agency’s Office of Civil Rights looked at information gathered from all of the nation’s 97,000 public schools related to the 2011-2012 school year.
The routine reporting is intended to assess whether students have equal access to education and offers federal agencies information so they can better enforce civil rights laws.
“This data collection shines a clear, unbiased light on places that are delivering on the promise of an equal education for every child and places where the largest gaps remain. In all, it is clear that the United States has a great distance to go to meet our goal of providing opportunities for every student to succeed,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Beyond discipline, the report indicates that students with disabilities are more commonly held back a grade, less likely to have access to a full range of math and science courses at their high school and are more likely to attend schools with high rates of teacher absenteeism.