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NYC School Suspensions Down, but Disparities Persist

Black students were 3.61 times more likely to be suspended than white students. (porqi/Pixabay)
Black students were 3.61 times more likely to be suspended than white students. (porqi/Pixabay)
November 1, 2016

NEW YORK – School suspensions in New York City fell last year, but the latest data shows that African-American children still are much more likely to be suspended.

In the 2015 to 2016 school year, there were fewer than 38,000 suspensions from city schools, a decline of about 16 perent from last year's total.

But according to Dawn Yuster, school justice project director at Advocates for Children of New York, black students still are being suspended at a rate more than three-and-a-half-times greater than white students.

"It's a little bit down from the prior year, which is somewhat good news although it's still quite significant that black students are getting suspended at such high rates," she said.

Yuster credited reforms to the school discipline code under the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio for the overall reduction in suspensions, but said more needs to be done.

Just as striking is the disproportionate number of students with disabilities being suspended. Yuster pointed out that students with disabilities are less than 20 percent of the student body, but were more than 38 percent of the total number of suspensions.

"What we're seeing is that students who need the most help: behavioral supports, mental health supports, are not getting the kind of help that they need," she added.

Disparities in suspensions are a nationwide problem. Yuster noted that the federal Department of Education has released guidelines for devising alternatives to suspension. And Advocates for Children of New York is calling on the city and other advocates to strategically invest in finding ways to keep students in the classroom and learning.

"We strongly believe implementing restorative practices on a large-scale basis, collaborative problem-solving, will promote positive school climates and also reduce the racial disparities," she said.

A bill to reform school discipline statewide was introduced in the state legislature this year but failed to pass. Advocates for Children is confident it will be reintroduced in the coming year.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY