In California, students of color are suspended at disproportionately higher rates than white students. Students with disabilities and LGBTQ students are also suspended at rates much higher than their non-disabled peers.
Gender also plays a role in whether a student will be suspended. Nationwide, more suspensions are given out to males than females; males make up 66% of the students receiving a single out-of-school suspension and 74% of the students expelled.
In California, African American students are 3 times as likely to be suspended as their white peers (18% vs. 6%). In some districts, the disparities are more profound:
The out of school suspension rate for blacks in Los Angeles Unified is nearly 6 times the rate for whites (17.3% vs. 2.9%). The Latino rate is 5.2%.
For San Francisco Unified, black suspension rates are more than 6x the rate for whites (14.4% vs. 2.2%). The Latino rate is 5%.
For Sacramento City USD, black suspension rates are 3 1/2 times that of whites (21.2% vs. 6%). The Latino rate is 9.3%.
Research about student behavior, race, and discipline has found no evidence that African-American over-representation in school suspension is due to higher rates of misbehavior. Instead African-American students are far more likely to be punished than their white classmates for reasons that require the subjective judgment of school staff, such as
disrespect, excessive noise, and loitering. For students with disabilities, the race disparities are even more glaring. In California, nearly 28% of African American students with disabilities are suspended at least once.
Children most likely to be suspended or expelled are those most in need of adult supervision and professional help because they have witnessed violence or been subjected to other major home life stressors and trauma. These children are also the most likely to have no supervision at home.
In San Mateo County, roughly one-third of the youth in foster care for more than two years had been suspended; foster children were also ten times more likely than their non-foster counterparts to be expelled from their school district.16 A study of middle school students in San Francisco found that one in every 6 students (an average of five or six children in every classroom) surveyed experienced at least one traumatic event, such as community violence, abuse, the death of a loved one, putting them at risk for mental health and trauma related symptoms that can manifest into difficult classroom behaviors.
Variation in suspension rates among schools is due as much to the characteristics of the school and behavior of school personnel as to the behavior of students; schools with high suspension rates typically have high student-teacher ratios, low academic quality ratings, reactive (as opposed to proactive) disciplinary programs, and ineffective school governance.