By Elisabeth Kim, PhD
Suspension Rates by Level of Segregation in New Jersey High Schools for 2018-19
Schools/category: (All n= 325), (Non-segregated/mixed enrollment n=239), (Segregated- economic disadvantage/poverty n=37), (Segregated- race and economic disadvantage/poverty n=49).
The most segregated high schools in New Jersey often have the highest suspension rates. For example, this is the case for schools that serve large percentages of students of color (90%+), primarily Black and Latinx, and/or students from low-income families (50%+ economically disadvantaged). In addition, schools that serve a greater percentage of students with disabilities (18%+) and English learners (20%+) have high school suspension rates as well. Importantly, schools segregated economically, or both racially and economically show higher percentages of students receiving out-of-school suspensions (7%, 10% respectively) and all suspensions (12%, 11%, respectively) than mixed enrollment/non-segregated schools (5% for out-of-school-suspensions and 7% for any type of suspensions). This is notable because extensive research documents the harmful consequences of high rates of exclusionary discipline (where a student is removed from their educational setting) on students’ academic and life trajectories.
With support from the New Jersey State Policy Lab, the Joseph C. Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Studies is releasing a report that examines school discipline trends across New Jersey, and particularly suspension rates, a core aspect of school climate. Given the adverse outcomes and the substantial evidence documenting discipline disproportionality across racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, gender, sexuality, language, and disability lines, school discipline disparities have long been a paramount issue for educational equity. In NJ, the alarming rates of suspension faced by Black students mirror trends documented in national studies. This report seeks to contribute to the state’s knowledge base regarding discipline inequities by highlighting disparities in school discipline among schools serving high proportions of low-income students, students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities.
We also identify positive outliers (e.g., Union City High School, Elizabeth High School and Orange High School) representing schools that are segregated both racially and economically and serve large populations of English learners and/or students with disabilities but have low suspension rates. It is important to explore the policies and practices in these districts that have contributed to lower exclusionary discipline outcomes. This report discusses multiple practices that might be used to reduce suspensions in New Jersey high schools. It is imperative that researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in the state begin to engage in a dialogue with community members and families about these critical issues and work together to ensure that students have the support they need to thrive in school and in their future lives.