An article released in The CT Mirror reported mixed news: while the overall rate of out-of-school suspensions decreased by nearly one-fifth during the 2010-2011 academic school year, “it has not diminished Connecticut’s racial disparity in the use of the discipline technique.” Indeed, the suspension rates of African American and Hispanic students, compared to their white peers, are staggering: twice for the latter and thrice for the former.
What makes these numbers worse, however, is their disproportionate character. African American students comprise 13% of the total student population, yet received 39% of all suspensions. Likewise, Latinos, who make up 19% of the state’s student population, received nearly the same proportion of suspensions (36%).
Unfortunately, these figures provided by the State Department of Education are not anomalies. The Civil Rights Project at UCLA recently released a study focusing on the disparate impact of suspensions and expulsions as it related to various ethnic and racial groups, gender, and disability. One key finding (out of many) was the following:
National suspension rates show that 17%, or 1 out of every 6 Black school-children enrolled in K-12, were suspended at least once. That is much higher than the 1 in 13 (8%) risk for Native Americans; 1 in 14 (7%) for Latinos; 1 in 20 (5%) for Whites; or the 1 in 50 (2%) for Asian Americans.
Suspension Rates in Connecticut
Connecticut was ranked the highest in suspension rates for Latinos at 14% – twice the national average – with the Hartford School District at a whopping 44.2% suspension rate (the highest district in this category nationwide).
So what is the cause of such wide-ranging disparity, both here in Connecticut and nationally? Unfortunately, the answers are difficult to pinpoint. “Is it a matter of discrimination? Or is it a matter of behavior issues among certain populations? Either way, you still have a problem that needs to be dealt with,” stated Joe Cirasuolo, who is the executive director of the State’s superintendents association.
However, the impact is less opaque: “Over-reliance on out-of-school suspensions contributes to poor academic achievement, high dropout rates, and the staggering achievement gap between low-income minority children in Connecticut and their higher-income peers.” Increased run-ins with the juvenile justice system also result, as evidenced by a 2007 report that “89 percent of 16 and 17-year olds involved with the juvenile justice system had been suspended or expelled from school.”
Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.
 “School suspension rates drop, but minority students still overrepresented,” by Jacqueline Rabe Thomas. October 2, 2012: http://www.ctmirror.org/story/17615/school-suspension-rates-plummet-minority-students-still-overrepresented
 “Opportunities Suspended: The Disparate Impact of Disciplinary Exclusion from School,” by Daniel J. Losen and Jonathan Gillespie. August 2012: http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rights-remedies/school-to-prison-folder/federal-reports/upcoming-ccrr-research/losen-gillespie-opportunity-suspended-ccrr-2012.pdf
 See Footnote 1.
 “Teaching Discipline: A Toolkit for Educators on Positive Alternatives to Out-of-School Suspensions,” by Alexandra Dufresne, J.D., Annemarie Hillman, Cari Carson, and Tamara Kramer. June 2010: http://www.ctvoices.org/sites/default/files/edu10discipline.pdf
Because of the potentially adverse and significant impact an out-of-school suspension can have on a student’s future, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced school law practitioner if your child faces a suspension. Should you have any questions regarding school discipline or other education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.