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Study finds racial gap in suspensions of middle school students

African American students are suspended far more frequently than white children, especially in middle school, according to a new study by a UCLA researcher and a colleague in Indiana.
The scholars, including Daniel J. Losen, a senior education law and policy associate at the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies, said their work adds to findings that question the effectiveness of zero-tolerance policies that frequently mandate suspensions for specified offenses.
They expressed concern that suspensions cause students to miss valuable class time during a crucial period in their academic and social development.
"As the number of suspensions for kids of all races and all grades has risen dramatically, the gap between suspension rates for blacks and whites has more than tripled — from about 3 percentage points in the 1970s to over 10 percentage points today," Losen said in a news release. "The incredibly high frequency of suspension use in urban middle schools, and the large numbers of youth of color who miss school as a result, is rarely discussed in debates about what we must do to improve our schools."
The study by Losen and Russell Skiba, director of the Equity Project at Indiana University's Center for Evaluation and Education Policy, was released Sept. 14 by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The study utilized 2006 data from the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights — the most recent data available — and examined suspensions in approximately 9,220 middle schools in every state in the country.
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