EAST PALO ALTO -- The Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto has suspended nearly one in five Asian/Pacific Islander students, the highest suspension rate for that ethnic group in the nation, according to a study released Tuesday by UCLA's Center for Civil Rights Remedies.
A study of 2009-10 data showed Ravenswood suspended 19 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander students at least once. It also suspended 40 percent of its African-American students and 12 percent of Latino students. Overall, Ravenswood suspended nearly 16 percent of students at least once in 2009-10.
The 57-page study expands to the entire nation an analysis it wrote on California school districts and released in April, and raises an alarm about racial disparities in school discipline.
Except when used selectively as a measure of last result, suspension is not an effective discipline, the authors argue. "Being suspended from school is one of the leading indicators of kids eventually dropping out, disengaging and increasing the risk of being involved in the juvenile justice system," said Daniel J. Losen, who wrote the report with Jonathan Gillespie.
In analyzing sample data from 7,000 school districts nationwide, Losen and Gillespie found that 17 percent of African-American students were suspended from school in 2009-10. That rate compares with rates of 7 percent for Latinos, 5 percent for whites, 2 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders and 13 percent for
Ravenswood's suspension rates, nearly 16 percent in the study, have come down to closer to 10 percent, Superintendent Maria De La Vega said Tuesday. In order to improve student achievement, the district has worked toward improving student behavior, attendance and classroom management. As a result, De La Vega said, teachers have been suspending fewer students.
In fact, on Tuesday, Ravenswood administrators were attending an all-day training session on discipline and management. "We are trying to change the culture of the schools, to have more positive support for students," De La Vega said.
The district, serving 4,300 students in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park, is 79 percent Latino, 10 percent African-American, 8.7 percent Pacific Islander, and has minuscule numbers of whites, Asians, Filipinos and Native Americans. The UCLA study looked at both separate and combined Asian and Pacific groups.
The study's numbers, taken from data submitted to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, are calculated in a slightly different way from figures listed on the California Department of Education website.
Both the April and current report concluded that schools are suspending black and disabled students at a far higher rates than the general population.
The study found that suspension rates vary among states -- in North Dakota, the total rate was 2 percent, compared with South Carolina's 13 percent.
The report asserted that "harsh and punitive responses do more harm than good" and advocated alternatives to unsupervised suspension.
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.