Subsequent to the initial creation of this page, Padres y Jovenes Unidos issued its “3rd Annual Community Accountability Report Card: Toward Ending the School-to-Jail Track in Denver Public Schools 2012-2013.” The report shows that, as the number of suspensions was further reduced in the 2012-13 school year, the ratio of the black suspension rates to the white suspension rates increased from 5.5 to 6.1.The Hispanic-white ratio was unchanged from the prior year. I had intended to amend this page to further discuss the report.But prior to my getting to that, a May 11, 2015 Denver Post article discussed a new report by Padres y Jovenes Unidos discussing further growth in racial disparities.So I am not sure it is worthwhile to continually update the page.But I add here an August 24, 2015 letter to the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education explaining that the agencies’ failure to understand that reducing the frequency of suspensions will tend to increase both (a) relative differences in suspension rates and (b) the proportion more susceptible groups make up of persons suspended.
Colorado is one of the jurisdictions that relaxed discipline standards based, at least in part, on the mistaken perception that doing so would decrease racial and ethnic disparities in school discipline rates.As discussed in “Misunderstanding of Statistics Leads to Misguided Law Enforcement Policies,” Amstat News (Dec. 2012) (which mentions the Colorado legislation), relaxing discipline standards will tend to increase, rather than reduce, relative differences in discipline rates.The Colorado legislation was enacted in May 2012, so it may be some time before data are available to appraise the results of the legislation.
But even before Colorado relaxed standards, the Denver Public Schools had begun to reduce suspension and expulsion rates.According to a December 2012 report by the group Padres y Jovenes Unidos (DPS Accountability Meeting Report Card), in the 2011-2012 school year, out-of-school suspensions and expulsions were down 13% and 40% from the prior year.But the report also found that race/ethnic discipline disparities remained large.Black and Hispanic students experienced out-of-school suspensions 5.5 and 2.4 times as often as white students.The report did not explain how those disparities compared with disparities from the prior year.
Without knowing precisely how the 5.5 and 2.4 figures were derived, one cannot make exact comparisons with prior year data.But available data seem to indicate, as one knowledgeable about the relevant statistical patterns would expect, these ratios reflected increases from prior years.
The most recent available data from the Department of Education is for 2009.Often observers report racial differences in discipline rates separately for students with and without disabilities.But there is no indication in the Padres y Jovenes Unidos report that the figures are other than total figures.In any case, Table 1 presents the figures for black and Hispanic out-of-school suspension rates compared with white out-of-school suspension rates, separately by total (including students with and without disabilities, which is probably the approach in the report), by students without disabilities, and by students with disabilities.No ratio of the black out-of-school suspension rate to the white out-of-school suspension rate is above 4.0 and no ratio of the Hispanic out-of-school suspension rate to the white out-of-school suspension rate is above 2.0.
Table 1:2009 Out-of-School Suspensions in Denver Public Schools by Race and Ethnicity with Ratios of Minority to White Rates (overall and by disability status) [ref N2/b4920a1]