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Colorado: 1,800 out-of-school suspensions were given to special needs kids

May 9, 2018, Chalkbeat: Colorado schools gave out nearly 1,800 suspensions to young students with disabilities last year https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/co/2018/05/09/colorado-schools-gave-out-nearly-1800-suspensions-to-young-students-with-disabilities-last-year/ Getting sent home from school became a constant for Ben Wankel’s second-grade son last fall. It started simply enough: The cafeteria was too noisy, his pants were scratchy, or he was bored in class. Sometimes, Wankel’s son, who has autism, would flee the room, prompting a teacher or aide to follow. Other times, he’d have a meltdown that devolved into kicking, hitting, or throwing things. All told, the boy was officially suspended six times last semester from REACH Charter School, a 3-year-old Denver school that aims to educate students with disabilities alongside their nondisabled peers. The second-grader’s experience with discipline is a familiar story for young children with disabilities. A Chalkbeat analysis shows that last year among Colorado students in kindergarten through second grade, nearly one-third of 6,080 out-of-school suspensions were meted out to special education students — even though they make up just 9 percent of K-2 enrollment. … “I’m very disturbed by it,” said Phil Strain, a professor of early-childhood special education at the University of Colorado Denver. “I think that any time that there is a disproportionality ratio of [that] size … it’s beyond chance, beyond random, beyond accident.” … The disparities in suspension rates exist nationwide for special education students — and students of color — and helped drive a 2014 Obama-era directive urging states to reduce the use of such discipline tactics. While that guidance is now under review by the Trump administration, many school districts have taken bold steps amidst growing awareness that suspensions increase the likelihood students will repeat a grade, drop out of school, and become involved in the juvenile justice system. … The numbers are even more startling in other districts. Harrison, a 12,000-student Colorado Springs-based district, gave out 56 percent of its 324 K-2 suspensions to special education students last year. Boulder Valley, a 31,000-student district, gave out nearly 70 percent of its 55 K-2 suspensions to special education students last year.