Virginia disproportionately suspends African-American boys and those with disabilities for issues that are often minor, frequently entangling children in the law enforcement system.
Virginia, the state that leads the nation in the school-to-prison pipeline, also disproportionately suspends African-American male students and those with disabilities from school for issues as minor as a sarcastic tone, a cell phone, or too many unexcused absences.
“Suspended Progress,” a report released today by the Legal Aid Justice Center, says that the fix would be for school administrators to shift away from so-called zero tolerance policies, which often mandate punishment for even slight infractions, in favor of working with families and installing more preventive and supportive discipline.
In Virginia, students do not have a right to alternative education during suspensions or expulsions, meaning they fall further behind with each day of punishment.
Virginia’s “pipeline” is among the worst, according to the Center for Public Integrity, which analyzed schools’ law enforcement-referral rates in 2015. The state’s students werereferred to law enforcement at a rate of almost 16 per 1,000, the study found, compared to 6 per 1,000 nationwide. Across the country, black and special-needs kids tend to be referred more than others.
In total, Virginia public schools issued 126,000 out-of-school suspensions to approximately 70,000 individual students, according to Thursday’s report, compiled by the JustChildren (JC) program of the Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond. Those suspensions and expulsions were given to black boys and children with disabilities at a disproportionately high rate, the authors report.
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