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Civil Rights Data Release Reveals Millions of Students Chronically Absent, Lack Counselor Assistance

Civil Rights Data Release Reveals Millions of Students Chronically Absent, Without School Counselor

A release of civil rights data from the U.S Department of Education substantiated what the education community has been talking about for some time: millions of kids are chronically absent from school every year, and many of them are unable to receive support from underrepresented counseling staff.

According to The Washington Post, the latest installment of data released from the Civil Rights Data Collection comes from surveys conducted in "nearly every single one of the nation’s 95,000 public schools.”

Focusing on the 2013-2014 school year, the data indicated that over 6.5 million U.S. students miss more than 15 days of school annually, defining them as chronically absent students.

Reducing chronic absenteeism has become a district-wide initiative for many U.S. school districts as study after study has found just how damning the phenomenon is on students’ future success.

[Read about how one district reduced thousands of absences through a rigorous multi-year campaign].

"Missed classes mean missed instruction and holes in understanding that make it more and more difficult to keep up with peers. Absenteeism rates are highest among teenagers, but it’s by no means an adolescent problem alone. More than 3.5 million of chronically absent students were in elementary school,” the Post said.

The data also revealed for the first time exactly how many schools have a sworn-in law enforcement officer- 42 percent. On the flip-side, on average schools employ only one school counsellor for every 500 students.

This means that students are in some cases more likely to have access to law enforcement as opposed to a school counselor- an easy-to-see problem when considering the numbers of students dealing with trauma particularly in low-income areas where resources are lacking the most.

Earlier in the year, a The Seventy-Four exclusive found that three out of five of the nation’s largest school districts hire more security officers than counselors- an obvious cause for concern particularly as school districts struggle to switch to restorative methods of discipline.

And when it comes to discipline, the data dump revealed further info about just how disproportionate suspensions are handed out on a national level.

"Racial disparities in suspensions reach all the way down into preschool,” the Post said.

"Black children represent 19 percent of all preschoolers, and 47 percent of all those who were suspended."

Read more about the data here.

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

6/7/2016

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