American middle-school students are being suspended at an alarming rate, especially in large urban areas. That’s the finding of a new report co-authored by an Indiana University researcher. Professor Russ Skiba’s study indicates a disproportionate number of black students are suspended, compared to their white counterparts. In a national sample of more than 9,000 middle schools, the suspension rates for black males nearly tripled the rate for white males, and black women were suspended more than four times as often as whites. The study examined 18 urban districts more closely, finding even higher rates of suspension. 175 schools in these districts suspended an average one-third of their black male students. Of those 175, 84 schools suspended more than half of the black male students enrolled. Skiba saidthe research reveals suspension is not effective as a disciplinary tool.
“The American Psychological Association put together a task force, known as the Zero Tolerance Task Force, that spent a year in extensive review of the literature, and essentially came to that conclusion, that there was no evidence that increased rates of suspension and expulsion improved safety of schools or reduced disruption,” Skiba said.
Gale Hill, Principal at Bloomington’s Tri-North Middle School, agrees that suspension and expulsion only force students out of class, and are a remedy only in cases where physical harm is a threat or students are interfering with the education of others. Hill said that in past years Tri-North had an alternative to suspension program and a youth outreach alternative middle school where, rather than being suspended or expelled, students could remain in school and receive special attention and counseling. Those programs were eliminated because of budget cuts.