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NYC school suspensions for middle and high school drop dramatically, but black students continue to experience higher rates of suspension

(New York, NY) – Despite dramatic declines in rates of suspension for all racial and ethnic groups in New York City middle and high schools between the 2006-07 and 2016-17 school years, Black students continue to have higher rates of suspension compared to other students. The overall suspension rate increased by 19.1 percent from 2006-07 to 2010-11 and then decreased by 49.3 percent from 2010-11 to 2016-17. Two areas showed the steepest declines in rates of suspension: White students compared to students of other racial/ethnic groups, and middle school students compared to high school students; this according to the new report, Tracking Suspensions in New York City Public Schools, 2006-2017, from the Data Collaborative for Justice (DCJ) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Read the full report here.

Other key findings from the report include:

  • Suspension Rates Overall: While suspensions on the whole fluctuated, and ultimately declined by 39.4 percent, over the study period (2006-07 through 2016-17 school years), the timing and magnitude of the changes varied by grade, race and ethnicity, and disability status.
  • Suspension Rates by Grade: There was a sharper decline in suspension rates for middle school students (~50% decline across grades 6 through 8) than for high school students (approximately ~20% across grades 9 through 12).
  • Suspension Rates and Race: Over the course of the study period, Black students consistently had the highest suspension rates, followed by Hispanic, White, and Asian students in middle and high school.
    • While students of all racial/ethnic groups experienced declines in rates of suspension, White students experienced the greatest decline (~42% decline) compared to Black (~33% decline), Hispanic (~37% decline) and Asian students (~31%).
    • In 2016-17, the suspension rate for Black students in middle and high school was 2.8 times the rate for White students.
    • In 2016-17, Black students were more likely to have multiple suspensions and were more likely to receive more serious and longer suspensions for aggressive and injurious/harmful behaviors.
  • Suspension Rates and Disability Status: Over the course of the study period, students with a disability status (i.e., students with an Individualized Education Plan or “IEP”) and students without disability status experienced declines in rates of suspension – ~40% and ~45% respectively. Nonetheless, students with a disability status were consistently suspended at higher rates compared to students without a disability status.
    • In 2016-17, the suspension rate for students with a disability was 2.1 times higher than for students without a disability in middle and high school.
    • In 2016-17, students with a disability status were more likely to have multiple suspensions and longer suspensions compared to students without a disability status in middle and high school.

The full report contains extensive analyses of trends in the number and rate of suspensions from 2006-07 to 2016-17. It also includes an in-depth examination of the 2016-17 school year, to assess: (1) the use of multiple suspensions for individual students; (2) the number of suspensions by conduct/behavior; (3) the average number of days per suspension by conduct/behavior; and (4) how disciplinary actions vary in response to similar conduct/behaviors. The report disaggregates analyses by grade, race and ethnicity, and disability status.

“DCJ has extensively documented the ways in which young people in New York City have experienced steep reductions in criminal justice enforcement in recent years,” said Associate Professor Preeti Chauhan, Director of DCJ. “With this report, we now see that young people have experienced similarly sharp declines in suspensions from schools. The City should be proud that, today, young New Yorkers of all racial and ethnic groups have a reduced likelihood of being caught up in the criminal justice system and a greater likelihood of being in school than at any point over the last decade.”

LaShawn Robinson, Deputy Chancellor for the Division of School Climate and Wellness, NYC Department of Education said, “Schools need to be safe, supportive and affirming environments, and we train staff in implicit bias and restorative practices to advance equity for students and decrease disparities. We have made progress in this important work, but there is still more work to do, and we look forward to our continued partnership with the Data Collaborative for Justice.”

"Today’s report from John Jay’s Data Collaborative for Justice brings new data analysis and transparency -- two of the most powerful tools for bringing about change -- to the ongoing conversation about discipline in New York City public schools,” said Karol V. Mason, John Jay College President. “The report’s data tracks declining overall suspension rates, which reflect the important efforts of the City's education leaders. But the data also reveals the troubling persistence of racial disparities, with Black students experiencing higher suspension rates than other groups, which shows how much more study, dialogue, and work, is needed on this issue.”

“New York City is showing that it is possible to have safe streets and safe schools while reducing punitive criminal and educational sanctions against young people, ” said Jeremy Travis, Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice at Arnold Ventures. “A generation of young people, particularly young people of color, in this City may have very different relationships with the government institutions that serve them as a result of the trends documented by DCJ. Nonetheless, we should be concerned about the racial disparities documented in this report and find ways to support young people of color so they stay in school and avoid contact with the criminal justice system.”