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Student arrest, expulsion data meant to highlight disparities

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights released a report meant to highlight racial and disability disparities in schools.
Student arrest, expulsion data meant to highlight disparities
Posted at 12:40 PM, Nov 20, 2023

During the 2020-21 school year, 61,900 K-12 students were referred to law enforcement by public schools, resulting in 8,900 school-related arrests, according to new data from the Department of Education. 

The new data from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights was released to highlight the disparities some students face. There were nearly 50 million students in the public school system in 2020-21, the department said. 

The data showed that children with disabilities were more likely to be arrested than students without disabilities. While children with disabilities made up 17% of student enrollment in 2020-21, they comprised 28% of school-related arrests. 

Federal data showed that students who are disabled comprised 81% of students who were physically restrained, 32% of students mechanically restrained, and 75% of students who were secluded.

“These new (Civil Rights Data Collection) data reflect troubling differences in students’ experiences in our nation’s schools,” said Department of Education assistant secretary for civil rights Catherine E. Lhamon. “We remain committed to working with school communities to ensure the full civil rights protections that federal law demands.”

Black students were also more likely than White students to have a school-related arrest. These students were also more likely to be restrained and or secluded.

The data also found there were over 274,000 school offenses reported in public districts. Nearly 78% of those incidents were from threats of physical attack without a weapon.

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During the 2020-21 school year, about 786,600 students received an in-school suspension and about 638,700 received an out-of-school suspension. The data indicated about 28,300 students received an expulsion. The data showed  Black boys were nearly two times more likely than White boys to receive an out-of-school suspension or an expulsion. The data also showed students with disabilities accounted for 29% of students who received one or more out-of-school suspensions and 21% who received expulsions.

According to the Department of Education, about 522,000 students attended public schools where fewer than half of the teachers met all state certification requirements. Black and Latino students comprised 66% of the students attending those schools. 

The data also indicated that non-White students were more likely to attend a school that had a security guard but not a counselor than White students. 

"In America, talent and creativity can come from anywhere, but only if we provide equitable educational opportunities to students everywhere," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "We cannot be complacent when the data repeatedly tells us that the race, sex, or disability of students continue to dramatically impact everything from access to advanced placement courses to the availability of school counselors to the use of exclusionary and traumatic disciplinary practices."

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