November 1, 2011
Principals and superintendents suspended a disproportionally high number of black and special needs students last year, according to data the Department of Education released today to comply with a new law.
Of the 73,441 suspensions in the 2010-2011 school year, more than 50 percent were black and thirty percent had individualized education plans, according to the data. In contrast, black students make up 33 percent of city enrollment and students requiring special education services make up 17 percent.
“These are outrageous numbers,” said Udi Ofer, Advocacy Director for New York Civil Liberties Union, a group that has closely followed suspension data for more than a decade. “It shows a policy and practice that has a grossly disproportionate impact on black and special needs children.”
It is the first time that the DOE is providing disaggregated data about student suspensions to the public under the Student Safety Act, which City Council passed last year after years of lobbying by NYCLU and other advocacy groups. In previous years, the DOE has only been required to release overall suspensions under state law.
Now, the department is now required to report suspensions demographically — by age, race and gender — and by students with special needs. The law also requires the New York Police Department to produce data about student arrests.
The data reveal that troubled Lehman High School handed out 2,000 suspensions, more than twice as many as any other school. They also reveal that some elementary schools regularly suspend students as young as five or six. Three schools issued suspensions to 10 or more 5-year-olds; seven schools issued suspensions to at least 10 6-year-olds. One school, P.S. 152 Dyckman Valley, handed down suspensions to a total of 30 6- and 7-year-olds last year.
While the overall number of suspensions went up last year, the number of major and violent crimes went down over the same time period. The DOE reported there was a 4.8 percent decrease in major crimes — homicide, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, and grand larceny auto — committed in schools in 2010-2011. Two years ago, there were 841 such incidents, compared to 801 incidents last year. Smaller offenses also fell, by 6.5 percent.