School suspensions in San Mateo Foster City School District – Red Flags for Special Needs Students

Lying with statistics or just not looking hard enough?

Numbers can lie, but it is easier to just bury the key story.

Last week, our local school district (San Mateo Foster City School District) presented our school board with their “report card” from the state of California.

The presentation lacked drama.

Two areas that were obvious weaknesses for special needs kids were English and Math achievement.

But a surprise, at least for me, was the suspension data. If you don’t want to click:

all 12364 1.50%
English Learners 3360 1.20%
Foster Youth 34 0%
Homeless 508 1.80%
Socioeconomically Disadvantaged 3942 2.60%
Students with Disabilities 960 5.60%
African American 141 5%
American Indian 12 0%
Asian 3061 0.40%
Filipino 461 1.50%
Hispanic 4277 2.40%
Pacific Islander 285 2.10%
Two or more races 926 0.80%
White 3150 1.20%

 

If you look at the chart, the suspension rate for special needs kids is “High (5.6%)”…. it gets a little orange-red flag, but no one said much…

But, what happens when you put some actual numbers in:

Total Suspension Percentage Actual Suspensions Percent of Total Suspensions Percent of Total Population Suspensions compared to Population
all 12364 1.50% 185
English Learners 3360 1.20% 40 22% 27% 80%
Foster Youth 34 0% 0 0% 0% 0%
Homeless 508 1.80% 9 5% 4% 120%
Socioeconomically Disadvantaged 3942 2.60% 102 55% 32% 173%
Students with Disabilities 960 5.60% 54 29% 8% 373%
African American 141 5% 7 4% 1% 333%
American Indian 12 0% 0 0% 0% 0%
Asian 3061 0.40% 12 7% 25% 27%
Filipino 461 1.50% 7 4% 4% 100%
Hispanic 4277 2.40% 103 55% 35% 160%
Pacific Islander 285 2.10% 6 3% 2% 140%
Two or more races 926 0.80% 7 4% 7% 53%
White 3150 1.20% 38 20% 25% 80%

Special Needs Kids are almost one third of our suspensions!

Here, we have something. Students with disabilities (formally students who have IEPs) are 8% of the population, but 29% of the suspensions.

So, they are over-represented by 273% compared to their actual population.

This SHOULD have been an alarm bell.

Any group that is over-represented should be looked at (the African American number is also very high, but both the suspensions and total population is quite low in our district, while the Hispanic population is only a third of the district, but represents over half the suspensions… something that should also be of interest).

But the students with disabilities suspension rate requires attention.

These are students that already have been identified as needing extra support.

  • Are they getting extra support?
  • Are they getting enough extra support?
  • Are disabilities considered in the suspension process or “absolute” behavior?

Suspensions should be considered an educational failure as much as an individual one – how are we failing our special needs kids?

Next slide.

Business as usual.

How does your district handle suspensions for special needs kids?

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