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Study: Nearly 60% of Texas public school students suspended or expelled

Texas students expelled

A study that followed almost a million Texas public  middle and high school students for more than six years has found that almost 60 percent of those students were suspended or expelled.

The report, entitled "Breaking Schools' Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students' Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement," [PDF file] was released by the Council of State Governments Justice Center in partnership with the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A&M University.

"We hope these findings strengthen efforts underway in Texas to improve outcomes for students, and help other states' policy-makers in examining school discipline practices so they can enhance students' academic performance and reduce juvenile justice system involvement," Council of State Governments Justice Center Director Michael Thompson said in a statement.

Other key findings of the study include the following:

  • Of the nearly 1 million public secondary school students studied, about 15 percent were suspended or expelled 11 times or more; nearly half of these students with 11 or more disciplinary actions were involved in the juvenile justice system.

  • Only three percent of the disciplinary actions were for conduct in which state law mandated suspensions and expulsions; the rest were made at the discretion of school officials primarily in response to violations of local schools' conduct codes.

  • African-American students and those with particular educational disabilities were disproportionately disciplined for discretionary actions.

  • Repeated suspensions and expulsions predicted poor academic outcomes--only 40 percent of students disciplined 11 times or more graduated from high school during the study period, and 31 percent of students disciplined one or more times repeated their grade at least once.

  • Schools that had similar characteristics, including the racial composition and economic status of the student body, varied greatly in how frequently they suspended or expelled students.

"We need to maintain realistic expectations of what educators alone can accomplish in today's challenging classrooms," Senator John Whitmire, chair of the Texas Criminal Justice Committee, said in a statement. "At the same time, this report demonstrates that if we want our kids to do better in school and reduce their involvement in the juvenile justice system, we in the legislature need to continue looking into how teachers can be better supported and how the school discipline system can be improved."