Sacramento City Unified School District and Elk Grove Unified School District are regularly suspending more African American students than the biggest districts in the state of California. The majority of local citizens seem appalled at a new report that has just come out.
This new report has been published in a partnership with Greater Sacramento NAACP. During the 2016-2017 school year, Sacramento City Unified School District suspended 887 black male students. In other words, 20.7% of the African American males in the Sacramento City Unified School District have been suspended. Likewise, in the the 2016-2017 school school year, Elk Grove Unified School district suspended 745 black male students. In other words, 16.5% of the African American males in the Elk Grove Unified School District have been suspended. That means Sacramento City Unified School District is number 1 and Elk Grove Unified School District is number 3 of all the school districts in the state of California in terms of the suspension of African American male students.
The other school districts in the top 5 for suspension of African American males are Los Angeles Unified, Fresno Unified, and Oakland Unified.
This report showed male suspension rates for African-American students at 19.5% in all Sacramento County public schools. This was compared to 10.1% for Native Americans, 8.8% for Pacific Islanders, 7.8% for Latinos, 6.6% for Whites, 2.4% for Asians, and 2.2% for Filipinos.
It is unclear what other factors are behind the suspensions of these African American male students, such as whether they were suspended for violence or for non-violent issues. A closer examination of the factors behind these suspensions can help determine solutions, which do not just reduce suspensions but benefit all students.
Greater Sacramento NAACP President Betty Williams said the numbers need to change immediately. She confirmed she may seek legal action if Sacramento City Unified School District doesn’t make policy changes.
“Either you make a change now, or we can go to court and you can make the change later,” Williams said.
Clearly, both Elk Grove Unified School District and Sacramento City Unified School District need to respond and address already prevalent concerns that existed even before this report was made public. The Elk Grove Tribune will continue to report on this story as it develops.
Statement of Xanthi Pinkerton
Director of Communications & PIO, Spokeswoman of Elk Grove Unified School District
We continue to see room for improvement in our suspension rate. Disproportionality is a matter we are paying close attention to, monitoring regularly and analyzing trends in the data. We are examining all data points to help guide our decision making process for improvement.
- Ethnicity of suspended and expelled students is one important factor that guides our discussions for improving school climate and culture and staff training for educational equity.
- Location of discipline infraction occurrences (in-school or out-of-school) is another factor to consider when it comes to decision making about who needs training –in classroom teachers or external staff.
- Type of infraction is another critical factor we examine to determine supports that are needed. For example: Are the suspensions due to violent or non-violent behavior?
Through continuous improvement methodology we aim to lower our suspension rate. The students of our District are our top priority, and the District works hard to provide an education to our students in a safe and productive environment. Any disruption to the learning environment concerns us. We are actively involved on many fronts to reduce the suspension rate for African American students while maintaining a safe and productive learning environment for all students and staff:
- We are conducting Quarterly Data Reviews by Cabinet and Principals to analyze multiple data points.
- Dialogue as to best practices regarding student discipline occur at both principal and vice principal meetings
- There has been a concerted review of literature regarding the efficacy of suspensions, including for violation of Ed Code 48900(K) on willful defiance; the literature has come from different studies by higher education, social policy groups – including ACLU, medical academies, law enforcement , etc.
- Calibration exercises as to student discipline are continuously conducted with vice principals.
- We have provided in service training for all site administrators by EGUSD legal counsel on suspensions, particularly use of 48900(k), and discretionary and mandatory expulsions
- Regional meetings with principals and members of Board of Education include student discipline as a point of discussion
- Student discipline is now included in principal evaluations
The District’s approach to suspensions is that we follow a progressive discipline policy and each school site administrator has discretion to discipline students. We are working toward developing trauma-informed care and responses at schools using Positive Behavior Interventions and Support training. Progressive discipline is an area of focus as is student-centered support. Elk Grove Unified believes in maintaining safe and productive learning environments and works to mitigate any disruptions that would threaten student and/or staff safety and order.
- In recognizing the need to regularly and closely monitor and examine disproportionality, rather than risk eliminating measures specifically in place to maintain safe campuses and safe classroom environments, the District focused on analyzing cause and effect related to discipline.
- Several years ago, the District eliminated using a zero tolerance approach to discipline, which immediately reduced the number of “willful defiance” suspensions.
- The District has since been using a progressive discipline approach with alternatives and exclusionary practices are judiciously administered.
- The District also has implemented Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports to provide a 3-Tiered approach to addressing behavioral issues and to support the needed professional development with staff districtwide. The program also helps to establish behavioral expectations at each school.
- We are currently implementing the Board approved educational equity framework that aims to address systemic bias and provide professional development to help staff better understand implicit bias with regard to discipline.
- Furthermore, the District is implementing Arbinger Institute training to provide all staff with the tools to self-reflect on actions and develop an outward thinking mindset to see the humanity in every student and person they interact with.
- Currently, a Board Policy related to the concept, roles and responsibilities of administrators and law enforcement relative to student behavior is being drafted for Board review, discussion and action.
Statement of Alex Barrios
Chief Communications Officer, Spokesman of Sacramento City Unified School District
The report’s conclusion that African American students are disproportionately suspended is alarming. The district takes the report’s findings seriously and has assembled a team that is reviewing the data and the district’s programs that serve African American Youth. The district is also reviewing its approach to suspensions district-wide and identifying how its approach can be improved. At the core of the issue is a dire need for the district to be able to review student data in real-time so that students who are flagged as “high risk” can be reached early and provided an appropriate intervention before a situation escalates to the point of suspension. On this front, the district has acknowledged for months that it needs a better early warning and intervention system in place to be able to identify and provide direct supports to students who are struggling academically and/or social emotionally. The development of this system has been in the works since the beginning of the school year and the district plans on having the system in place for the next school year. While reducing suspension rates will be one the outcomes the district hopes to improve with the launch of the early warning and intervention system, the district ultimately wants to make sure that all students are achieving academically.