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Report Finds Reducing Suspensions in High Schools Can Save Big Bucks

Report Finds Reducing Suspensions in High Schools Can Save Society Money- $35 Billion to be Exact

Today UCLA’s Civil Rights Project released a report called ‘The High Cost of Harsh Discipline and Its Disparate Impact,’ finding that suspensions don’t just cost students learning time. The report estimates that 10th grade suspensions alone have a social price tag of $35 billion.

In order to arrive at its findings, the report tracked national data for 10th graders and concluded that suspensions of students in 10th grade result in an estimated 67,000 high school drop-outs annually.

The report figures that over a lifetime, a high school drop-out represents at least $163,000 in lost tax revenue and $364,000 in social costs (think criminal justice expenses). Given that the report estimates 67,000 drop-outs to be directly attributed to suspensions, the report estimates that $35 billion is lost due to suspensions being used as a disciplinary measure.

The report recommends that as states begin to draft new accountability systems under the Every Student Succeeds Act, policymakers make it a priority to legislate a reduction in suspensions used in schools.

“'Not only will school districts increase graduation rates and generate billions of dollars in economic activity if they stop suspending so many students, the research also shows that reducing the racial discipline gap makes good economic sense and will reduce social costs that hit communities of color the hardest,’ added Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA," according to the report.

The report points to success stories in states like California which "has reduced suspensions by nearly 40 percent since the 2011-2012 academic year by virtually eliminating suspensions for the minor infraction of 'disruption or defiance' and by taking other measures to promote alternatives to suspension.”

(Important to note, however, is that teachers in larger districts of the state like Los Angeles Unified School District have complained about lack of measures to ensure their safety in the face of unruly students. Mentioning the need for a proper support system and training for teachers not used to using restorative justice tactics is critical.)

Specifically, the report recommends that states use suspension rates to evaluate school performance, review and collect suspension data and allocate both resources and funding to investing in disciplinary measures that keep children in school.

This is the second report this month to discuss the negative effects of school suspensions. Earlier this month, the Legal Aid Justice Center found that hundreds of students in Virginia are involved in a vicious cycle of being suspended for not attending school. The state does not offer alternative forms of education for suspended students, so the report says that students are put on the fast-track to drop-out after getting caught in this cycle of repeatedly missing school. 

Read the full report.

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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