Charters Suspending Students With Disabilities At Higher Rate

In an analysis of discipline records for every one of the nation’s 95,000 public schools, including over 5,250 charter schools, researchers identified deep disparities across all grades (elementary and secondary) even though fewer children with disabilities attending such schools, according to the report from the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles. This report, entitled “Charter Schools, Civil Rights and School Discipline: A Comprehensive Review” provides the first comprehensive description of charter school discipline. The results show that suspensions meted out by charter schools for racial groups (especially among black students) and students with disabilities was excessive or disparate.

In 2010-2011, 235 charter schools suspended more than 50% of their enrolled students with disabilities. In 1093 charter schools, students with disabilities were suspended at a rate at least 10% higher than their non-disabled peers.

The national average for suspensions among students with disabilities in charter schools versus non-charter schools was 15.5% vs. 13.7% as compared to among non-disabled students 7% from charters and 5.7% from non-charters.

When separating the suspension rates among elementary aged students and secondary school aged students at Charter schools, the disparity grows substantially. Charter school elementary school aged children with disabilities had a suspension rate of 9.7% as compared to a non-disabled student rate of 3.7%. In secondary grades, charter school students with disabilities were suspended at a rate of 20.8% compared to teh non-disabled secondary student rate of 10.6%. The study also found that the suspension rate for black secondary students was high at 22%.

The policy implications of the report are that charter schools should not be exempted from reporting and oversight requirements applicable to public schools meting out discipline. As the study’s lead author Daniel J. Losen was quoted as saying, “It’s disturbing to see so many of these schools still reporting such high suspension rates because that indicates charter leaders continue to pursue ‘broken windows,’ ‘no excuses’ and other forms of ‘zero tolerance’ discipline…. And we know from decades of research that frequently suspending children from school is counterproductive.”   The study’s findings “elevate the need for oversight of charter schools and a continuing review for possible civil rights violations. There should be no excuses for charter schools that fail to comply with civil rights laws.”

Sources for Article: “Charter Schools, Civil Rights and School Discipline: A Comprehensive Review” by Daniel J. Losen et al. March 2016;  “Students With Disabilities Suspended More Often At Charters” by Shaun Heasley, March 25, 2016, Disability Scoop