In November, Texas Appleseed released the results of its study analyzing school suspension rates for youth in the state of Texas over the previous school year. Researchers utilized suspension data to examine numerous factors that put the youngest Texas students at-risk of dropping out of school and being introduced to the school-to-prison pipeline. Researchers identified the excessive use of suspensions, in-school and out-of-school, as a problem. The infractions leading to these disciplinary actions were often extremely minor and often innocuous. For example, a fourth grade boy in Odessa, Texas was suspended for making a terroristic threat after he told a classmate he could make him disappear using a replica “Lord of the Rings” magic ring. These exclusionary practices negatively impacted students by removing them from the classroom thus missing critical learning time, and negatively impacted families by requiring parents to find alternatives to childcare -- often having to care for their child while he/she was on out-of-school suspension.
Texas Appleseed researchers also identified a number of negative outcomes that arise due to the impact school suspensions have on students and families. According to the authors missed classroom time, mistrust of the educational system, and increased difficulties for families are all outcomes that can be traced back to high suspension rates. Researchers described the use of out-of-school suspensions as an ineffective solution, as it negatively impacts individual student’s behavior and classroom climate. Students at the elementary level who are frequently disciplined can also be labelled as a problem or bad child very early in their educational careers. The Suspended Childhood study also examines the disproportionate impact suspensions have on Black children, boys, and students with disabilities. All three groups, according to the data, have suspension rates that are disproportionate considering their respective percentages of overall student populations.
Texas Appleseed concludes its study with a set recommendations for school districts, educators, the Texas state legislature, parents, students and community organizations. These recommendations range from limiting the use of suspensions Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) placements, and expulsions for elementary aged students. Other recommendations included advocating for and implementing district and school-wide changes to discipline policies and practices, and training educators in research-based alternatives.
The study conducted by Texas Appleseed can serve as a constructive research model for states, schools districts, and schools looking into the over usage of in-school and out-of-school suspensions. Though the recommendations can be utilized as cross-cutting policies across the country, it is important that state and local leaders identify specific problems evident through the data collected on their schools.
To read the Texas Appleseed Report on Suspended Childhood click here: Suspended Childhood