PROVIDENCE – A report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island found that school suspensions throughout the state disproportionately target black, Hispanic and Native American students, often for relatively minor rule violations, the organization announced Wednesday.
Researchers drew from data gathered between 2004 and 2012 by the R.I. Department of Education, finding that in nearly every Rhode Island school district, black and Hispanic student suspension rates were higher than their representation in school populations, while rates for white students were lower.
The disparities were sharpest at the elementary school level, where nearly 1,400 students were suspended last year. Black elementary school students were suspended at six times the rate of their white peers. In high school, their rate was only twice as high.
The ACLU lambasted the high suspension rates across the state, saying that research has shown out-of-school suspensions to be ineffectual and potentially damaging. It recommended that schools use them only for major infractions. The report also encouraged greater transparency about disciplinary policies and racial disparities in suspension.
“Out-of-school suspensions are used too often to punish infractions that in no way justify the long-term consequences that suspensions can carry,” Hillary Davis, ACLU policy associate, said in a statement.
The report found that many of the suspensions were for minor behavioral issues like “Insubordination/Disrespect” and “Disorderly Conduct.”