Friday, April 11, 2014

Fall River Still Suspending Disproportionate Number of Black, Special Needs Students

In December 2012, it was reported the Fall River public school district was suspending black and Latino students at disproportionate rates. Because of this the US Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation into student discipline in the city. The investigated was prompted by a complaint by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which charged that the district's disciplinary practices discriminated against minority and special needs students. The most recent data at that time from the 2009-10 school year indicated that 25% of black students and 23% of Hispanic students received an out-of-school suspension compared to 13% of white students. Further, nearly half of all black students with disabilities were suspended that year. In all, "the district suspended more than 18 percent of all students in [2009-10], the state’s second-­highest rate among non-charter systems."

Fast forward to the 2012-13 school year and the most recent data indicates that 14.4% of all Fall River students were suspended during the last school year compared to 18% three years before. The suspension rate among African American/black students remains nearly the same at 24.2% and slightly lower for Hispanic/Latino students at 18.9%; the out-of-school suspension rate for students with disabilities was 22.3%. While white students did account for approximately 52% of out-of-school suspensions, the actual suspension rate among this population was just 12%. Further, white students currently make up 61% of Fall River's student population; African American/black students are 7% of the population and Hispanic/Latino students 21%. Fall River currently has the state's third highest suspension rate among non-charter systems behind Holyoke and South Middlesex Regional Vocational Technical School; overall it has the 20th highest suspension rate in the state.

Source: The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education