Report: Students With Disabilities Disciplined Twice As Often As Peers
Suspension and expulsion rates for students with disabilities have dropped, but are still about two times higher than for their typically-developing classmates, according to a new report.
The New York City-based National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools analyzed national data from the U.S. Department of Education’s 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection, which is the most current available.
“The data shows that while we’ve made slight improvements and are headed in the right direction, we have a lot of work to do to improve supports and services for students with disabilities in both charter schools and traditional public schools,” Lauren Morando Rhim, executive director of NCSECS, said during a panel discussion in Washington D.C. this week. “We must improve, and that starts by collecting the hard data and using it to inform policies and spark more efficient collaboration between education leaders at the federal, state and local levels.”
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According to the report, students with disabilities made up 12.46 percent of enrollment in traditional public schools and 10.62 percent of enrollment in public charter schools. As shown in other research, the report found that students with disabilities were subject to discipline at roughly twice the rate of students without disabilities.
In traditional public schools, 11.56 percent of students with disabilities had been suspended and .26 percent had been expelled.
Those figures, however, were lower than the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools found in a similar 2015 report, which covered data from 2011 to 2012. At that time, students with disabilities in traditional public schools had a suspension rate of 13.4 percent and an expulsion rate of .46 percent.
For students with disabilities who were enrolled in charter schools, the most recent suspension rate was 12.28 percent, down from 13.45 percent in the 2015 report. For expulsions, the rate was .20 percent, down from .55 percent.
Selene Almazan, legal director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, said she was encouraged by the reductions, but that the report highlights the need for teachers to receive training in what causes challenging behavior and how to prevent it.
“That needs to be addressed by building the capacity of general education teachers to understand positive behavior supports and functional behavioral analysis,” Almazan said. “The analysis of behavior really can’t be overstated. It really is a science to determine what motivates the behavior.”
Other research has shown similar discipline disparities. Just last month, an analysis found that preschoolers with disabilities account for three-quarters of all suspensions and expulsions.
The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools’ report also categorized the types of disabilities among students. In traditional public schools, specific learning disabilities made up 46 percent and speech or language impairment was 20 percent. Autism accounted for 6.5 percent and intellectual disability was 5.89 percent.