Beyond Suspensions: Examining School Discipline Policies and Connections to the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color with Disabilities

Research Rundown Issue: September '19
Publisher: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Date Published: July '19


This new report finds that students of color with special needs are disproportionately suspended and expelled relative to their white peers with special needs. While there are decades of research that illustrate persistent discipline disparities for students of color and students with special needs, this report is unique in that it examines students who live at the intersection of these two identities. In particular, the report found that students of color—both as a whole and when broken down by individual racial group—do not commit more disciplinable offenses than their white peers, but black, Latinx, and Native American students receive substantially more discipline. These disproportionate discipline practices result in black students with special needs losing approximately 77 more days of instruction compared to white students with special needs.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

Minnesota’s history of disproportionately suspending and expelling students of color and students with special needs has been extensively documented. Minnesota’s students of color receive 66 percent of all suspensions and expulsions, even though they are only 31 percent of the student population. Furthermore, students with special needs in Minnesota received 43 percent of all suspensions and expulsions, but only represent 14 percent of the student population. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is working to address these disparities by partnering with districts, and advocates are calling on legislators to create better guardrails and procedures. Read more in our recent blog.

Read the full briefing