State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today announced a dramatic 20 percent drop in the number of students expelled in 2013-14 and a 15.2 decline in the number of students suspended. This marks the second year in a row of declines in both areas.
The new figures come at a time when the California Department of Education (CDE) is working with districts around the state to implement innovative programs that reduce suspensions and expulsions, including some known as “restorative justice.”
“These numbers show that the work of the department, districts, teachers, parents, and students around the state is paying off by keeping more students in school and learning,” said Torlakson. “You can have the best facilities, the best teachers, and the best curriculum in the world, but none of that matters if students are not in school. That’s why we have put so much effort into increasing school attendance and reducing expulsions and suspensions and will continue to do so.”
Statewide, 49,987 fewer students were suspended in 2013-14 compared to the year before, down 15.2 percent. The suspension rate is 4.4 percent, down 0.7 of a percentage point from the year before. Similarly, 1,655 fewer students were expelled in 2013-14 compared to the year before, down 20 percent. The expulsion rate remains at 0.1 percent because the overall numbers are relatively small (Table 1).
To reduce the number of expulsions and suspensions, the CDE has taken several steps, including hosting a forum and workshops, and posting Behavioral Intervention Strategies and Supports. In addition, the CDE has worked with several education groups to develop restorative justice programs that promote respect, taking responsibility, and strengthening relationships.
Before such programs were implemented, the greatest percentage of students suspended or expelled was for “willful defiance.” For the second year in a row, the highest percentage declines came under this category. Last year, 261 fewer students were expelled for defiance-related offenses, down 47.7 percent from the year before. Another 76,296 fewer students were suspended for defiance-related offenses, down 28.9 percent from the year before.
Willful defiance became identified with the problem of high rates of expulsions and suspensions after the CDE reported a high number of minority students were suspended for this cause. Those figures helped spur the passage of Assembly Bill 420, supported by the CDE and sponsored by former Assembly member Roger Dickinson. The bill, signed into law last year, limits suspensions and expulsions for disruptive behavior in certain grades.
Suspensions for more serious federal offenses were down by thousands among every student subgroup. However, a disparity remains among African-American students’ rates of suspension, which were relatively unchanged from the year before. African-American students are 6.2 percent of total enrollment, but make up 16.4 percent of students suspended, up 0.2 of a percentage point from the year before. White students are 25 percent of total enrollment, but make up 20.6 percent of students suspended, down 0.3 of a percentage point from the year before. Hispanic students are 53.3 percent of total enrollment, but make up 54.7 percent of suspensions, up 0.1 of a percentage point from the year before (Tables 2, 3).
This is the second year of declines. Between 2011-12 and 2012-13, the number of expulsions dropped 13.5 percent, while the number of suspensions decreased 10.2 percent (Table 4).
Data collected through the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) enabled the CDE to report detailed data for the third year in a row. Prior to the collection of these data in CALPADS, they were collected differently as aggregate counts, so the 2013-14 data may only be compared to the two prior years and cannot be compared accurately to prior years’ suspension and expulsion data. The data presented here were for “unduplicated” counts of students suspended or expelled. This means although a student may have been suspended or expelled more than once, each student was only counted once.
The suspension and expulsion data are available on the CDE’s DataQuest. Downloadable data files are available at the CDE’s Expulsion and Suspension Data Web page. Truancy data are collected through the California Basic Educational Data System Online Reporting Application and are still being tabulated.