While suspension and expulsion rates across Chicago Public Schools have dropped significantly over the past four years, minority students are still far more likely to receive school punishment than their peers.
The number of suspensions among black and Hispanic students has been cut in half since 2012. But those two groups combined made up more than 96 percent of the district’s total suspensions in the 2015-16 school year, and more than 99 percent – all but three – of its 329 total expulsions.
This past school year, CPS recorded 55,270 total suspensions. Black students within the district were suspended more than 76,000 times in the 2012-13 school year. That total fell to 39,000 in the 2015-16 school year. The number of Hispanic students receiving suspensions also fell from more than 25,000 down to 13,800 between the 2011-12 and 2015-16 school years.
Hispanic students made up 46 percent of the 392,000-student CPS population, according to the district’s October 2015 racial/ethnic report. Black students make up 39 percent of that total, while white students made up just under 10 percent.
But black students were punished disproportionately compared to their peers – making up 77 percent of the district’s total expulsions last school year (253 out of 329) and 71 percent of its suspensions (39,288 of 55,270), according to CPS data. Those totals are in line with the previous school year, when black students made up 68 percent of CPS suspensions and 81 percent of its expulsions.
Two white students were expelled in the 2015-16 school year, and 1,428 were suspended. None were expelled during 2014-15.
In the past three years, suspensions of black male students have declined 68 percent and expulsions have declined 72 percent. CPS says it will “support and seek out programs that specifically support African-American male students,” according to a press release, in hopes of further reducing those punishments.
A CPS spokesman declined further comment on Chicago Tonight’s findings.
Overall, the rate of out-of-school suspensions in CPS schools has fallen 67 percent, while the expulsion rate has decreased 74 percent since 2012, when a new Student Code of Conduct was put into place, according to the district.
CPS says this is part of a concerted effort to replace zero-tolerance discipline with a holistic approach, working to address the root cause of student misconduct and cut down the school-to-prison pipeline.
Across the district, out-of-school suspensions declined 67 percent from 2012-13, down to 8.08 per 100 students, while in-school suspensions fell from 12.97 per 100 students in 2012-13 to 12.08 this past school year.
Police notifications have also fallen 39 percent since 2012-13.
Most suspensions in high schools – about 60 percent according to a 2015 University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research report – stem from acts of “student defiance,” where students refuse to comply with demands from adults. That report also concluded suspension rates are "strongly related to students’ prior test scores, their race, and their gender."
Total suspensions – both in- and out-of-school – topped 100,000 in both 2011-12 and 2012-13. In those two years, more than three out of every four student misconducts resulted in some type of suspension. Less than half of all student misconducts led to a suspension in 2015-16.
The district says its Office of Social and Emotional Learning provides training and coaching to all school principals on ways to address misconducts while reducing the amount of time students spend outside of the classroom.
In a press release, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool called the overall drop in expulsion and suspension rates “monumental” and credited them to the district’s embrace of restorative practices.
“We are highly encouraged by the change that has occurred in recent years,” he said in the release, “and we remain committed to providing our schools and educators with the resources they need to keep students safe, supported and engaged in their learning.”
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