MA Charter Schools Suspend Far More Students Than Public Schools

Charter schools in Massachusetts, particularly those in Boston, suspend students at far higher rates than traditional public schools. According to a new report from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, 9 out of the 10 school systems in the state with the highest suspension rates are charter schools, with some of them suspending between 40 and 60 percent of their students often for minor misbehaviors like dress code violations or being tardy.

From the Boston Globe:

The findings come amid a national debate about the use of school suspension. The tactic had been gaining popularity over the last decade or so as part of “zero tolerance” policies that schools adopted, taking a hard line on discipline in hopes of maintaining order.

But a growing body of research suggests that students who are suspended repeatedly are more likely to fall behind academically and drop out, prompting a backlash among students, parents, and civil rights advocates.

That debate played out in Massachusetts two years ago when the Legislature passed a law, which went into effect this July, that calls upon districts to refrain from excluding students from class unless they commit egregious acts, such as assaults, drug possession, or bullying.

Massachusetts is far from the only state taking steps to curb zero-tolerance discipline. Across the country, states and school districts are banning the use of suspensions for minor misbehaviors and investing money and training teachers in alternatives like restorative justice, which focuses on addressing root problems for misbehaviors and helping students repair any harm done.

Because students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately suspended, fixing the disparities in school discipline is a key strategy to closing persistent achievement gaps for those students. 

Read more about the Massachusetts report here. And click here to read a guest post from Tom Mela, who helped organize the coalition that passed a statewide school discipline reform law in 2012. 

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