Washington schools are making progress in reducing the use of suspensions and expulsions as discipline, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. But officials said racial minorities and kids with disabilities are still being disciplined at higher rates than their peers.
The overall rate of suspensions and expulsions statewide inched down to 3.7 percent in 2015-16 compared with 3.9 percent in 2014-15.
The practice of suspending or expelling kids from school for bad behavior has drawn a lot of attention in recent years. Research has shown that keeping kids out of school doesn’t deter them from future misconduct and hurts their academic performance.
The state is paying close attention to instances where some groups of kids get disciplined more often than others, said Josh Lynch, program supervisor for discipline and behavior in the state superintendent’s office.
“We’re not just concerned about overall decreases in suspension and expulsion rates as much as closing gaps between groups of students,” Lynch said.
Statewide, eight percent of African-American students were suspended or expelled compared with 3.2 percent for white students.
In the Puget Sound region, districts such as Tacoma, Fife, Renton and Puyallup had discipline rates higher than the state average. Places such as Seattle, Bellevue and Issaquah were lower than the state average.
But all of those districts suspended or expelled African-American students at a higher rate than white students.
“These trends are troubling and they warrant serious attention: We must analyze why disparities exist and determine what approaches may be most effective in addressing them,” Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said in a statement.