Gail L. Sunderman and Robert Croninger
October 2018 | Download this Brief
There are 196 public schools in Maryland or about 14% that our analysis identified as “high suspending”— that is, schools that suspend 25% or more of at least one subgroup of their student enrollment. These schools are located in both rural and urban areas, in small and large districts, and in all regions of the state. While there are more secondary schools than elementary schools that suspend students across multiple subgroups, we found that Black students and students with disabilities were disproportionally suspended out-of-school across all school levels.
Consider the major findings of this report:
- Close to 60% of out-of-school suspensions (OSS) are Black students, even though Black students make up only 35% of public school enrollment in Maryland.
- Students with disabilities represent 13% of enrollment in Maryland public schools but 25% of out-of-school suspensions.
- School OSS rates for Black students are twice as high as OSS rates for White students.
- The highest school suspension rate is for students with disabilities, with schools suspending on average 9.5% of their students with disabilities.
- Schools with higher enrollments of Black students, students with disabilities, and low-income students and lower enrollments of White, Asian and Hispanic students suspended more students across multiple subgroups.
- High suspending schools were less successful academically, had lower graduation rates, lower attendance, higher mobility, and fewer experienced teachers. In other words, these were struggling schools across multiple indictors.
This report shows that a subset of schools drives the high suspension rates in Maryland. The high rate of variability across schools—and districts—suggests that the use of disciplinary consequences is related to contextual variables that go beyond individual student behavior. Indeed, it appears that both the district and school a student attends play a role in suspension rates. This suggests that districts with large numbers of high suspending schools either have a culture where exclusionary discipline is condoned or are not providing the leadership, resources and training needed to prevent inappropriate behavior. The variability in suspensions across schools provides evidence that schools can do things differently, but some schools may need more support than they are currently receiving.