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Students With Disabilities Made up 32.90% of Suspensions in RI Schools

Thursday, June 04, 2015

 

Rhode Island schools are suspending students with disabilities at a rate twice as high as their representation in the student body, according to a report by the ACLU.

The ACLU report found that students with disabilities made up 32.90% of all suspensions from 2005-2014. During that time period, students with disabilities made up just 16.11% of the student body on average.

“The figures suggest that, while students with disabilities are supposed to be given myriad services, they are being removed from school not because of their behavior, but because of the failure of schools to meet their needs. Worse, they are being disproportionately suspended for relatively minor, and often subjective, infractions,” the report states.

The report also found that just over 14% of students with disabilities were suspended at least once from 2005-2014. By comparison, only 6.65% of students without disabilities were suspended during that same time period.

ACLU's Recommendations

The ACLU gave several recommendations to fix the issue. One solution that the ACLU offered was the passage of legislation that would limit the use of out of school suspensions to only the most serious offenses.

The ACLU also suggested that the Rhode Island Department of Education and local school districts look at their data to identify disparities in the suspension rates.

“Suspensions have for too long been a first response to children’s behavior instead of a last resort. That Rhode Island’s children with disabilities are suspended even when federal law requires they be given particular behavioral supports only underscores the over reliance on suspensions to address the behavior that comes with being a child. Children with disabilities deserve better than a ‘troublemaker’ label and a trip down the school-to-prison pipeline, and Rhode Island must work to do better by them," said Hillary Davis, the author of the report.

 

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